Jupiter in July
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Charles Jarrett

Jupiter in July is another great example of Canadian playwright Norm Foster’s comic genius. Through a marvelous mixture of men and women traveling through time and space and coming together like comets exploding on Jupiter, Foster has produced some of the freshest comedy in theatre.

Set in the recent past, Donald and Joanne Springer (Morgan Mackay and Linda Ayres-Frederick) are an old married couple in their 50s. Their son Keanne (Chris Pflueger) is an astronomer excited by the quickly approaching astronomical event of comets about to collide with Jupiter.

Donald has been caring for Joanne for over six months. She believes she had a mild heart attack and for six months has confined herself to bed. Though Donald thought he heard the doctor say she had “heartburn,” he’s such a caring husband that his only complaint is that Joanne has refused to have sex with him since the incident. But even that complaint is rarely uttered. Instead, he has taken up gardening at a public garden in a local park. While tending his garden, he listens to a Vivaldi tape and fantasizes about taking a trip to Italy.

Going to his garden is the only solace he can find in his world of denial. He simply can’t face the fact that he’s trapped in a marriage that’s gone bad.

When he meets a younger woman, tending a garden next to his, and their common interests begin sprouting more than flowers, he begins to realize that his life needs to change. But it’s the awkward journey toward making this need for change into a reality that makes great comedy.

For example, Heddy (Katharine Devlin), the younger woman, is in the midst of breaking up with her boyfriend Alan (James Sharpe). Alan is an artist and believes in the purity of his art, but he has yet to make any money on his sculpture and seems perfectly content to let Heddy support him. The arguments of this couple alone are hilarious. They explore the crisis of artists in today’s world who have to find some balance between a real job, like working in a bank, and continuing to create. But Foster takes it to a delightful extreme, exploring the artist in society’s and Heddy’s eyes as a deadbeat loser. The long marriage of Joanne and Donald, though more complex, is equally funny with many surprising twists.

Though this play is not a holiday show, it will put you in good spirits this holiday season. So instead of an eggnog hangover or a compulsive shopping binge, why not try colliding with Jupiter in a big bang of laughter.

For tickets call Playhouse West at (925) 942-0300.

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