Central Alberta Theatre is serving up light-hearted, Canadian comedy for its final dinner theatre of the season.
Norm Foster’s Sadie Flynn Comes to Big Oak runs through to April 18th at the Quality Inn. Directed by Erna Soderberg, the dinner starts at 6 p.m. with curtain at 7:30 p.m. Sunday brunch buffets begin at noon with curtain at 2 p.m.
Foster is your quintessential Canadian playwright – his plays tend to be witty, usually warm ‘slices of life’ of a given tight-knit community caught in unexpected circumstances. Sadie Flynn Comes to Big Oak is like that – a small community deals with a very unexpected visitor – with loads of secrets and motivations of her own – and what follows is amusing to say the least.
In this case, Sadie is not just a rather mysterious figure who shows up at the town bus depot looking for a new life; she’s a convicted husband killer with a dubious explanation for how her husband met his end. She said it was an accident. But the man was shot twice. Naturally, the gossip mill kicks into high gear as folks learn she’s in town after a six-year prison sentence.
CAT veteran Deb O’Brien plays Sadie to perfection.
O’Brien has always been a joy to watch on stage – she can handle pretty much whatever a script demands, from nailing a raw vulnerability to a bold confidence to exhibiting superb comic timing. She can also play the mysterious-type well, too, which of course Sadie really is. In its early stages, it’s hard to know where Sadie is coming from – particularly when all kinds of bizarre and even dangerous things start happening around the area. Townsfolk are scrambling to come up with answers – is platinum-blonde, attractive Sadie at the centre of it, or just an innocent, kind of pitiful woman trying to make a new life for herself? Coincidence of just really unlucky timing?
Rounding out the cast are Jim Claggett and Mike Sutherland as owners of the local café who befriend Sadie almost immediately.
As Tom, Sutherland has been perfectly cast. His role isn’t really a prominent or forceful one, but he can always be counted on to nail it. Claggett is also terrific as Orson – the friendly, welcoming and big-hearted fellow who got a coin collection that is comically mistaken for another personal attribute – you have to see the play to learn more about that.
Claggett is a natural onstage, and pretty much has been from the get-go – he seems utterly at home onstage and the sincere charm and warmth of his personality shine through. He and Sutherland are also great together – there is a convincing ‘realism’ to their relationship, and it serves to strengthen the story that much more.
Providing shots of fun throughout are supporting actors Andrea Hughes Coleman as beleaguered hair stylist Bev and Glorene Ellis as Rachel. Hughes Colemen is new to the CAT family, and a really welcome addition. Her previous community theatre experience shines through; she’s fun but she also has moments where emotions ranging from hurt, anger and sadness surface as well. There’s a real versatility there, and it will be exciting to see her further appearances with the troupe down the road.
Ellis is terrific too – Rachel is a lovable addition to this cast of characters. Ellis was featured in last year’s The Oldest Profession, and her comic gifting was clear then. But there is plenty of substance there as well – Ellis knows when to inject just the right amount of expression into a given scene to an effective end.
Finally, of course, credit must go to Soderberg, who is also one of CAT’s true stars when it comes to brightening up the stage. Putting this play together has also been a delight for Soderberg, a CAT veteran who has directed and starred in many productions over the years. She’s been with the organization for 28 years. This marks her 14th time directing and she’s acted in 13 shows.
I think because she is so skilled with comedy as an actor, her gift for guiding others along in a production like Sadie Flynn is all the better for it.
She has a way of really bringing a cast together and helping them ‘do what they do as individuals’ best. Ultimately, her shows typically flow along with energy, snap and plenty of chuckles along the way.
Tickets are available at the Black Knight Inn by calling 403-755-6626 or checking out www.blackknightinn.ca.