Island Players present another Norm Foster comedy

Norm Foster comedies are becoming a staple of entertainment at the Island Players playhouse.

In recent season’s the Anna Maria Island troupe has performed a few of Foster’s shows, including “Drinking Alone” and “The Long Weekend.” Beginning at 8 p.m. today, the Island Players will roll out another of Foster’s tales — “The Affections of May,” which runs through Feb. 8.

The Canadian playwright has often been called Canada’s answer to Neil Simon. His “Affections of May” was so popular that it became the most produced play in Canada during 1991, according to www.normfoster.com. Overall, Foster has written nearly 40 plays in his career.

In his Web site’s biography, he notes that his plays are about ordinary people just trying to get by.

“I never set out with a monumental purpose in mind,” he stated. “I’m not trying to teach an audience a lesson or pass along some profound message, because I don’t think I’m qualified. What I am trying to do is make them feel a little better about this world, and that’s not easy these days.”

The Island Players often choose his works because of his interesting and rather funny situations about relationships. “A number of his works deal with family problems and interaction,” said Phyllis Elfenbein, who is directing the four-member cast. “This one is different. It deals with a troubled couple.”

In the play, May gets dumped by her husband, Brian, after they open a bed-and-breakfast in a small resort town. While learning to stand on her own two feet and run the business on her own, May crosses paths with Quinn, a handyman looking for work who has a wounded past.

Things begin to blossom for May soon after Quinn’s arrival. Could it be love? The success of her bed-and-breakfast? A winning game of Scrabble?

Elfenbein said May is bogged down in her share of troubles, but is offered hope through several comic situations and the friend she finds in Quinn.

“The play really deals with the struggle of both May and Quinn,” she said.

Quinn will be portrayed by Island Players’ newcomer Heiko Knipfelberger, of Parrish, an actor-turned-construction worker, turned handyman in real life.

Knipfelberger’s first career was as an actor performing in off- and off-off Broadway shows in New York before leaving his dreams of stardom behind for a career in construction, which was successful until the economy took a hit and his projects dried up. Now, he works as a handyman and builds cabinets, but dabbles with acting on the side.

Knipfelberger said he likes the quirky nature of his character.

“He’s a nice guy who has had a tough life,” he said. “He kind of mirrors my own life.”

Dianne Brin, who starred in the Island Players’ production of “Drinking Alone” plays May.

“I didn’t know too much about the play when I auditioned for it,” said Brin, of Lakewood Ranch. “I just loved the idea of one female with three men (in the cast). I thought it sounded intriguing,” she joked.

Brin was also lured in by the fact the troupe was performing another Foster play.

“I just think he’s a very, very funny man,” she said.

Of her character, May, Brin said she’s inspired by how she’s trying to find herself after her husband leaves her. “She’s trying to get her life back together,” she said. “She finds out she’s not dependent on a man for her happiness.” But she may be dependent on one for a little humor.

January Holmes, features writer, can be reached at 745-7057.

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