Neptune Theatre’s newest production Jonas & Barry In The Home is a glimpse into our golden years. For many, the idea of being placed into a retirement home is the beginning of the end. There is the defeat of being put out to pasture; the realization, or often a denial, that perhaps our ability to care for ourselves is no longer as easy as it once was. Time becomes the enemy and therein lies the choice to either admit defeat or to make hay while the sun still shines.
Such are the two archetypes in the latest work of prolific playwright/actor Norm Foster. We have the character Barry Butterfield (David Nairn), who despite being relatively young for a senior, has been admitted over health concerns by his daughter/senior home employee Rosemary (Erin Mackinnon). Barry resents being admitted so prematurely, spending his day as a resident crankpot, pestering his daughter with awkward, outdated reminders that is her duty to keep the family name alive. It is not until the eldery Don Juan, carpe-diem-embracing Jonas Ainsworth (played by Foster) shows up on the scene that Barry thaws and find some entertainment in his environment.
Director Derek Ritschel gives Foster’s piece the typical sitcom treatment. There are enough quips about old age in Foster’s work to fill two plays. If jokes about Aquafit class, Viagra, and the grand seduction of senior citizens are your bag, look no further than this. Nairn wears the surly, cynical Barry well, making him a fun foil to the charming, less inhibited Jonas. The pair share a real life friendship and it translates well as their characters connect and evolve onstage, even if you’re able to predict the play’s climactic reveal. Likewise the relationship between Barry and Rosemary comes across as equally organic. Mackinnon imbues her character with the sarcasm and quick wit needed to counter Barry’s hardheadedness. Rosemary holds her father accountable for his previous thoughtless indiscretions that sabotaged the greatest foundation of her upbringing.
While Foster undeniably has a knack for pumping out enough jokes about aging to form his own standup routine, it is his musing and meditations on mortality and maximizing our remaining time that makes Jonas & Barry a satisfying, if straight-forward theatrical outing.
All photos credited to Stoo Metz.