Canes and Comedy: ‘A Bench in the Sun’

Phil Perrin, Judy Tetlow, and Harold Potter performing in 'A Bench in the Sun'.
Phil Perrin, Judy Tetlow, and Harold Potter in A Bench in the Sun. Photo sourced from Domino Theatre.

Have you ever been curious to follow two childhood friends into their retirement home? Well, now you can. Kind of.  

Ron Clark’s A Bench in the Sun is a tale of two old friends who now live in a seniors’ home together. Every morning they meet on their bench in the sun and discuss life’s tumults and vexes with the other. Dialogue is endless and quarrels are persistent as the two bicker steadily, taking turns as the antagonizer. Menial arguments aren’t the only plot point though as love affairs and life’s past dramas make their way into the show. Directed by Sara Beck, Domino Theatre brings this production to their stage.

Phil Perrin as Burt is lovable for his witty and genuine delivery. As a pyjama-wearing pessimist, Perrin shines with quick comebacks and endearing quirks. On the other side of the bench sits Harold (Harold Potter), a try-hard charmer whose charismatic armour doesn’t seem to get him far. Potter is excellent in portraying this hard exterior that seems quite easy to crack. There’s the small mentions of family who never come to visit overshadowed by the three failed marriages he’s proud to have had. Potter delivers egotism, soft disappointment, and bursts of frustration with ease. 

After ample time of getting to know the two men, Judy Tetlow takes the stage as Adrienne, a retired actor whose high spirits attract both Burt and Harold. Although her white lies and efforts to make the home a reality show paint her as suspicious, Tetlow brings a light and breezy quality to the character. Her bright smile and positive nature are striking—there’s no question as to why the two men have fallen for her. 

Although each character brings spunk to their role, there are some small pacing issues with the show. Not every bout of dialogue seems to flow and the show runs slow. Some scenes seem unnecessary and don’t contribute to the plot. However, there is an argument to be made that how these characters’ friendships encounter lulls is parallel to relationships that are experienced in reality—rarely is a friendship a constant adventure of trials and triumphs. Rather than giving an audience a play packed with punch, A Bench in the Sun gives an audience comfort and serenity.  

There are some laugh out loud moments in the show but many quips didn’t land for me as much as they did for others. The comedy can be understood by varying ages but some seems catered to an older audience. Even though I wasn’t weak in my knees from laughter, I still found myself smirking at remarks that I could hear (or have heard) my grandfather saying. 

The show’s set designed by Chris McKinnon does wonders for the production. A well-constructed park bench sits against a short brick wall filled with a garden bed. Looming over is a tall tree whose colour of leaves adjusts to the season (lighting design by David L. Smith). 

There are some sound effects throughout the length of the show but sound design (Lorna Jodoin) could have used some more musical elements. A soft underscore would make dialogue more lively in a show that relies so heavily on it. 

A Bench in the Sun will bring a smile to any audience’s face at some point or another. It is a charming production and really quite nice to see three folks of an older generation starring in one show. That’s not something seen much of these days and it’s lovely to have it brought to a Kingston stage. 

‘A Bench in the Sun’ is playing at Domino Theatre until September 23, 2023. More information can be found here.

This article was edited on December 1st, 2023 to update formatting.