You will laugh out loud, repeatedly, at the goings-on in Hilda’s Yard.
The Norm Foster comedy, on until Nov. 5 at the Chemainus Theatre Festival, is a hilarious romp that combines timeless family dynamics that will both touch your heart and have you chuckling helplessly, with a specific sense of place and time, inhabited by colourful, unforgettable characters.
Though this play is set unmistakably in the 1950s — indeed, a key part of the plot is the Fluck family parents Hilda and Sam purchasing their first television set — it is in no way dated.
Through the considerable talent of an excellent cast, the characters are specific, but also loveably familiar.
Giovanni Mocibob is perfect as the shiftless, dreamer son Gary who is in his 30s and still living off his parents. He unconvincingly blames his extended adolescence on having served overseas in the Second World War — safely far behind enemy lines, working supplies, his mother is quick to clarify. His one attempt at a job in pizza delivery led to his current affair with customer Bobbi (Emma Slipp), a thoroughly modern girl who plays trombone and stands on her own financial feet. Slipp is wonderful as the girl who just takes everything as it comes with good humour, and find Gary loveable despite seeing him quite clearly.
Ella Simpson is hilarious as Janey, the not-too-bright, recently married daughter who arrives unexpectedly on her parents’ doorstep, announcing the end of said marriage and her newly discovered professional ambitions. She is both a ridiculous and serious figure whose situation reveals a great deal about everyone — but I don’t want to give too much away, here.
Father Sam (Brian Linds) is a man of his generation, someone who did exactly what he was supposed to do in life, and finds now some of the cracks inherent in filling those expectations so unthinkingly to the letter. The conundrum he faces about the job he’s given his days to for 26 years will be painfully familiar to everyone. Loyalty and corporate America is definitely not a theme that’s gone away in the intervening decades between when this play is set and today.
But the glue in the family is Hilda, brought to life with a magnificent performance by Karen Johnson-Diamond.
In no way blind to the foibles of her offspring, Hilda is nevertheless nothing less than devoted to her family and their happiness.
She is the iron core of the Fluck clan, both the warmth of a comfy seat by the fire — or washing hung out on the line in the backyard — and the no-nonsense kick-in-the pants her children need.
Johnson-Diamond is really special in this juicy role — funny, sincere and all-around wonderful. Her performance alone is worth a trip to see this show.
Rounding out the cast is Brad Austin as bookie Beverly Woytowich. In Foster’s brilliance, even he is something more than he appears and Austin finds both the tough guy and the surprising intellectual.
You know a play is good when the lights come up and you can’t believe you’ve been sitting there for several hours, and that’s what happens with Hilda’s Yard. It’s like being wrapped up in a big hug.
Get your tickets at 1-800-565-7738 or chemainustheatre.ca