Stage & Screen

Foster Festival's Beside Myself: An Examination of Love Lost & Found

Foster Festival's Beside Myself: An Examination of Love Lost & Found

By David DeRocco 

If familiarity truly does breed contempt, how in the world can a marriage be expected to survive decades? That’s the conundrum faced by millions of couples whose love and passion have faded with the passing of time. For those who manage to keep even the slightest flame burning, there can be redemption. All it takes is a deep appreciation for the reasons they fell in love in the first place – and, perhaps, the ability to travel back in time to correct all the mistakes made.

Time travel is not something you expect to find in a Norm Foster play. And yet, that plot device is critical to the storyline in the latest stage production in the 2019 Foster Festival. Beside Myself is a sweet musical examination of the reasons love fades and the virtue in finding it once again.  

The story centres on Paula the failed novelist and Sam the root beer salesman, a typical couple 35 years deep into a marriage going nowhere except out the door in opposite directions. As they go through the process of dividing their assets, they wonder if their lives would have been better if they had never met and fallen in love. The discovery of a long-forgotten wedding gift – a wishing stick – sets off a chain of events that sends the couple back in time and mentoring younger versions of themselves. What ensues is a light-hearted yet poignant story of redemption that reminds us all of the true power of eternal love.

Reuniting playwright Foster with composer Steve Thomas, Beside Myself is the perfect platform for the Festival’s first musical of 2019. Lyrically, the songs penned by Foster and Thomas provide a thoroughly enjoyable soundtrack to the production, all of which are capably delivered by its stars. They include veteran actors Gabrielle Jones and Jonathan Whittaker as Paula and Sam, and relative newcomers Breton Lalama and Griffin Hewitt as their naïve, idealistic younger selves. Songs such as “I Wish We Never Met” and “Beside Myself” carry the story forward in the same insightful and concise manner as Foster-penned dialogue.

If there is a flaw in Beside Myself it may be that Paula and Sam rekindle their love in such a quick and transformative fashion it’s hard to believe it was ever in question. However, that’s also a testament to the actors who make us believe that it is possible to hit the re-set button on a stale marriage. Beside Myself is a warm and enjoyable exploration of love and relationships and a perfect lens through which many struggling couples can see hope for their own rekindled romance.


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