Click Here to follow along on our Ontario Theatre Tour as we explore the communities and companies outside of the city that we’ve never encountered before.
One of the great discoveries so far on our Ontario Theatre Tour has been the Foster Festival. We caught the company at the Mandeville Theatre at Ridley College, a private high school in St Catharines. Just a short drive from the home of the Shaw Festival and thus the permanent home of many of the country’s greatest actors, the small Foster Festival (like companies in and around Stratford) is able to punch far above their weight in attracting world class talent who are associated with, retired from, off season, or just not working at the Shaw this year.
In the case of Jenny’s House of Joy, Shaw regulars Donna Belleville and Catherine McGregor add incredible gravitas to the ensemble. McGregor in particular is a delight to see in a really meaty role, something she rarely got at the Shaw for reasons completely passing understanding. Her leading performance as the madam of Jenny’s House of Joy is nuanced, tender, and tough, a true star turn at the head of a fantastic ensemble of women. Beckie Morris’ beautiful set design and Lisa Horner’s thoughtful direction give the piece further life and detail.
Jenny’s House of Joy is a companion piece to Outlaw, a production I unfortunately missed but am pleased as punch to see offered in concert with this one in the same season at the Foster Festival (I love multi-show connected programming). Perhaps it’s its position as a companion piece to a male-dominated story but Jenny’s House of Joy stands out in Foster’s canon not just for its focus on women but for its complex portrait of multiple, very different women. It’s an achievement that stands apart from the pitfalls of many of the legendary Canadian playwright’s scripts and, elevated by The Foster Festival’s capable production, it’s the best I’ve ever seen from Foster.