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Showin’ some skin

by on March 23, 2010

(reposted from dailygleaner.canadaeast.com)

B1 By LORI GALLAGHER
gallagher.lori@dailygleaner.com

You’ve lost your job and, economically at least, times are tough all over. What would you be willing to do to get back on your feet?

Stephen MacGillivray Photo - Rehearsing a scene from the play Skin Flick are, from left, Melissa-Jane Shaw, as Jill; Amos Crawley, as Byron, and Sam Owen, as Alex. Theatre New Brunswick is presenting the Norm Foster play at The Playhouse from March 25-28. One regular, middle-aged couple answers this question in Skin Flick, a Norm Foster play that explores how creative people can get when pushed to the limit.

“I just had an idea to tell this story about these two people who had fallen on financial hard times. They were trying to figure out how to make some quick money and they decided to make an adult film,” says Foster.

“Of course, they’re totally out of their element. They’re pretty straight people in their 50s and really don’t know what they’re doing.”

They hire a couple of actors and go about trying to produce this movie, he says.

Is this something Foster would do if he fell on hard times?

“No,” he laughs, “I don’t think so.”

Aside from the title, he says, the play really is a sweet little love story between these two people.

“They’ve been married for years and they’re still very much in love after all these years,” says Foster.

“There are a few naughty bits thrown in for fun, but deep down it is a simple love story.”

The play is a lot of fun as well, he says.

“I know a few of the cast members who are involved in this production. They’re really good actors and I think the audience will have a lot of fun and get a lot of laughs.”

Sweet, funny stories like this are the kind that Foster likes to write.

“It’s a little touching and funny at the same time. People can identify with the people on stage.”

He enjoys having his plays put on by Theatre New Brunswick, as Fredericton is a place Foster considers home.

“I have a lot of friends back there still, and family, so I love it when TNB does my shows.”

Unfortunately, he won’t be able to make the trip east while the show is on, as he’s working in Vancouver until the middle of April. He’s acting in his play The Love List at the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company.

Fredericton’s own Wally MacKinnon is playing Rollie in the TNB presentation. Being part of this production is too much fun, he says. “It’s a really great group.”

He hasn’t worked with TNB for four or five years, so he was excited when this part came up.

“I’m a really big Norm Foster fan. I’ve done a few of his shows, directed many of his shows, so to get a new one from him is great,” says MacKinnon.

The character he’s playing in Skin Flick, he says, is just an ordinary Joe.

“Both he and his wife are down on their luck, losing their jobs, and there are a lot of things shutting down at this time in the economy, so he’ll do what he has to do to feed his family.”

Rollie is not really big on the idea of making an adult film at first, but he comes around.

The audience, says MacKinnon, “is just going to have some fun. Be open-minded. It’s nothing really risqué, just lots of laughs.”

Joining MacKinnon on stage are Sharon Bernbaum as his wife Daphne; Melissa-Jane Shaw as Jill, a down-on-her-luck actress; Amos Crawley as Byron, a shy bookie; and Sam Owen as Alex, a recently fired cameraman.

“It’s a really strong cast. All five of them are hysterical and inhabit their characters wonderfully well,” says Caleb Marshall, the artistic producer and director.

“Norm is a great wordsmith and he gives you a lot of word play, but he also sets up great opportunity for physical humour, but it’s up to you to find it.”

They’ve been having a lot of fun playing with the physical humour and the gags, he says. “We waste an hour-and-a-half laughing most days.”

Building on some of the opportunities Foster has presented in the play, Marshall wants the audience to see a lot of the physicality of Skin Flick but out context.

“There is no recreation of sex in this show, but you’re certainly going to see a lot of the physical positions at one point or other,” he says.

Part of the reason Marshall chose Skin Flick is because it felt like Fredericton to him.

“It’s a regular, middle-aged couple, living in a big, old home, with a kid in university and they’re struggling to get by. A lot of it felt like it could be Fredericton,” he says.

“We embraced that in the production and tried to bring out some of those elements.”

He’s not saying to everyone in the audience that producing an adult film is what they would do in response to an economic downturn, says Marshall, but it might be their neighbours’ solution.

“Where Norm is brilliant too is that he plays with the average person’s knowledge of this, the stereotype knowledge of the porn industry that the average, not-so-informed person has,” he says.

“These people don’t have a clue what they’re doing, they have no idea what they’re getting themselves into.”

Skin Flick is the third offering of TNB’s 2009-2010 season.

“A balanced season is very important to me. Even with three mainstage shows, I think it’s possible to come up with a real balance, of a cross-section of genres and styles, and something hopefully for everyone,” says Marshall.

This year, they had an artistic departure with Doubt, he says, something challenging for students and theatre lovers.

They had something nostalgic and heartwarming for families with It’s A Wonderful Life.

“I also felt it deserved something just for adults,” he says. “Grownups deserve their own show, too.”

Skin Flick will be proceeded by opening act Bad Water by M. Anne Mitton. It is the story of an Irish family, separated by famine, who struggle to reunite by immigrating to New Brunswick, only to find more strife in quarantine on Partridge Island.

TNB is presenting Skin Flick, with opening act Bad Water, at The Playhouse March 25-27 at 8 p.m. and March 28 at 2 p.m. For tickets, contact The Playhouse box office or visit http://www.theplayhouse.nb.ca.

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