Review: Lighthouse summer season off to a solid start with ‘Doris and Ivy’ (The Haldimand Press)

By Mike Renzella | The Haldimand Press

May 30, 2024

PORT DOVER—Each year, Lighthouse Festival Theatre’s summer season offers the community a passport to laughter with a heaping portion of heart, and that is the perfect description of this year’s season-debut, ‘Doris and Ivy in the Home’, written by renowned playwright Norm Foster and directed with sure hands by Lighthouse stalwart Jane Spence.

Melanie Janzen, Ian Deakin & Brigitte Robinson in Lighthouse Festival’s production of Norm Foster’s Doris and Ivy in the Home.

The play introduces us to Doris and Ivy, two women of a certain vintage, who find themselves sparking up a friendship together after meeting one day in the garden of the retirement village they both call home. 

With biting humour, the pair slowly help each other untangle the pile of regrets amassed throughout their lives, while Ivy attempts to fend off the romantic advances of Arthur, another resident of the home living with a terminal cancer diagnosis.

The show marks the Lighthouse debuts of Ian Deakin as Arthur and Brigitte Robinson as Ivy, while Doris is played by Melanie Janzen in her fourth appearance on the Lighthouse stage.

All three have great chemistry together, with Janzen’s Doris displaying an abrasive, but charming, lack of social awareness colliding head on with Robinson’s Ivy, a disgraced Austrian athlete who has spent her life attempting to outrun her failures on the field.

Deakin imbues his character with a gentle vulnerability, making no attempt to hide his desire to experience true love one more time before shaking off his mortal coil.

Spence directs the play with a light touch, allowing her performers to take centre stage. The story takes place over the course of a year, with light changes to the set and lighting relaying the changing seasons effectively.

Brigitte Robinson & Melanie Janzen in Lighthouse Festival’s production of Norm Foster’s Doris and Ivy in the Home.

“This play is a heartfelt exploration of friendship, courtship, resilience, and unyielding spirit,” said Spence on what drew her to the material. “Norm Foster’s writing, rich with humour and poignancy, reminds us of the importance of seeking out meaningful connections at whatever stage of life we find ourselves.”

The show is something of a spiritual sequel to another show Foster penned in 2015, ‘Jonas and Barry in the Home’. He shared, “I had so much fun writing that play, that I decided to write another play with the same setting. Only this time, the two leading characters would be women.”

While the two stories are not connected, they share thematic similarities – namely, they are both about “people who care about other people. And how that care can affect each of their lives.”

‘Doris and Ivy in the Home’ is playing at Port Dover’s Lighthouse Festival Theatre until June 8. From there, it will move to Port Colborne’s Roselawn Theatre, running from June 12-23.

For tickets and more information about the show, and Lighthouse’s upcoming exciting summer season of shows, visit

After studying journalism at Humber College, Mike Renzella desired to write professionally but found himself working in technical fields for many years. Beginning in 2019 as a freelancer, he joined the team full-time later that year. Since then, Mike has won several awards for his articles thanks to his commitment to presenting an unbiased, honest look at the important news and events shaping our community.