Take Heed with Storm Warning

Storm Warning

Playwright: Norm Foster
Director: Simon Joynes
Set design: Eric Bunnell
Lighting design: Travis Hatt
Featuring: Karen Parker & Phi Bulani
Port Stanley Festival Theatre
box office 519.782.4353
August 15th – Sept 8th
Tickets $27- $30

A war-damaged ex-army officer who has isolated himself in his remote cabin (complete with outdoor plumbing) is surprised by some unexpected company: a pill popping, non-stop talking, independent woman from the city (who swears like a sailor) takes up residence in the adjacent cabin. This thoughtful and witty play by Norm Foster is filled with sharp one-liners as we watch the opposing worlds of Jack (Phi Bulani) and Emma (Karen Parker) collide.


Lesleigh: I loved the set immediately, I thought, another home run by Eric Bunnell. It had an earthy feel to it, weathered and in need of some TLC, the colours worked so well, the faded reds, browns, and greens. I liked the choice of blue for the floor. It gave the feeling that the lake was not far away…the birch trees for the background all reminiscent of cabin days of yore.

Trish: I didn’t appreciate the set as much until the lights came up on the second act. I wish I had seen how they transformed the stage during intermission to take us from the beautiful outdoors to the basic comforts found inside of Jack’s cabin. The design was simple but attention to detail was not lacking – I loved the power pole set to the back of the stage and the old fashioned light switches used inside.

Lesleigh: I really liked the opening, no music, just quiet and the sounds of birds off in the distance, the idea of solitude, a place where you could think and breath. When Emma (Karen Parker) barges in, even before we meet her, we know the feeling of serenity is over and a wonderfully comic, incongruent force has arrived to shake up Jack’s world.

Trish: As soon as Emma appears on stage, dropping a string of explicit….uh... adjectives…we know that things will never be the same for Jack. The exchange of snappy one-liners and the quick comedic banter between these two characters kept the audience laughing in all the right places, along with a few extra laughs found during some unexpected moments.

Lesleigh: Storm Warning was a good choice to end the season. Norm Foster understands theatre so well with his experience as an actor, a playwright, and a director. He understands that true comedy, the kind that leaves them rolling in the aisles comes from real situations, characters and circumstances the audiences can identify with…complete with a twist.

Trish: There were some great lines for sure! The reference to the Pez dispenser still has me laughing.

Lesleigh: Emma (Karen Parker) filled the stage with her awesome presence, she was always interesting, unafraid, present and so very funny. I believed in her story. I related to her circumstances and her longing for love. I was rooting for her and I wanted to know that her dreams would come true.

Trish: Emma is the polar opposite of Jack and even though her bold character fills the stage with her presence – Karen Parker successfully pulled back when needed during a touching monologue given by Phi Bulani, giving Jack his moment while re-living the past. During this moment we start to see past the façade behind the boldness and loud explicit language – we start to see something very human and relatable in Emma as she starts to let down the walls and a connection is made between the two.

Lesleigh: Phi Bulani was not as successful in his portrayal of Jack. I truly believe that part of his difficulty is that he was hindered by the fact that he had to wear a massive white wig and eyebrows. I know the script states that after his war experience his hair went completely gray, but as an audience member I would be willing to suspend belief and go with this actor’s regular hair that has some gray in it.

Trish: I agree Lesleigh – at first I wasn’t sure if the white wig was a disguise Jack wears while peeping on the neighbors’ from a distance with binoculars. When he referred to Emma as Ma’am… I then wondered if it was an attempt to age Phi Bulani to fit the character of an old man. It wasn’t until the script clarified the reasons that I stopped pondering the hair. It is surprising how a misplaced prop or ill-fitted costume piece can be distracting. I am sure there are many in the audience didn’t think twice about his hair or maybe were distracted by something else such as costume piece that didn’t fit the time era or a song played between scenes that took them out of the moment.

Lesleigh: Jack (Phi Bulani) was great with the comedy. He has good timing. He has a warm presence and I believed he was slowly being won over by this eccentric woman who had interrupted his reverie. My difficulty was with the scenes where he needed to be really grounded and present. Jack (Phi Bulani) very rarely looked directly at Emma when he was speaking to her, even when he had made the decision to reveal his long held, dark secret. As an audience member, I found his lack of connection disconcerting.

Trish: Phi Bulani played such a wonderful character – someone I really enjoyed watching on stage but I found myself wanting more from his character and wasn’t sure what it was that I felt was missing… I just felt the want for more…more of a connection or maybe emotion…to see something stirring just beneath the surface…so when the audience does find out about Jack’s past – we are moved by more than the words in the script.

Lesleigh: Overall, another lovely evening in Port Stanley. This play has something for everyone, comedy, a strong story and a sprinkling of love for good measure.

Trish: So regardless what the weatherman forecasts…this time – Storm Warning is a good reason to head to Port Stanley.

Finally, we would like to thank the Port Stanley Festival Theatre team and volunteers, as well as the artistic director, Simon Joynes for their graciousness and hospitality.  It has been a wonderful adventure coming out to Port Stanley for the four shows that we have been privileged to see. We love this little summer theatre and the warm audience response, another standing ovation last night. The food from The Kettle Creek Inn for the reception was delicious. Simon informed the audience that they have sold 300 more seats this year than any previous summer…congratulations.

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Lesleigh Turner has been involved in theatre in London (acting, directing, making costumes, attempting to use power-tools) for....well let us say...the London Community Players used to be on York street. She Recent projects: acting in Her Wake (Pacheco Theatre), directing Agnes of God, Jenny’s House of Joy (Theatre Soup), Little Miss Sunshine (Fountainhead Theatre) and Bare Foot In the Park (London Community Players).

Trish West is a mom/actress/playwright who is currently on day 253 of her personal 365 days photo challenge. She is enjoying this beautiful summer with her 4 children as they help mom find her "picture of the day."