Central Alberta Theatre’s next dinner theatre production, Gladys in Wonderland, opens Jan. 15th at the Quality Inn North Hill.
Penned by Rosemary Frisino Toohey and directed by CAT veteran Erna Soderberg, the play runs through to Feb. 6th. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with buffet at 6 p.m. and curtain at 7:30 p.m.
For Sunday brunch, doors open at 11:30 a.m. with curtain at 1:30 p.m.
According to the synopsis, the story follows an 87-year-old lady by the name of Gladys, whose days of ‘munching donuts and scouring the obituaries seem numbered when death himself comes knocking on her door one morning’.
Ready to whisk her off into the great unknown, her cheerful grim reaper is startled by Gladys’ stubborn refusal to expire.
In order to push Gladys toward the light, he ushers in a parade of obnoxious friends and relatives who nitpick and whine. He also gives her a taste of nursing home life from an inmate’s point of view. Suddenly, the afterlife doesn’t look so bad.
Cynthia Edwards, a frequently featured actor in CAT shows over the years, has taken on the central role of Gladys with superb results, explained Soderberg, adding the play has a fairly sizable cast of 11.
As for the character of Gladys, Soderberg explains her circle of family and friends are really starting to worry about her with her advancing age and all.
“As we get older, we change. We change in looks. We change in what we care about and what keeps us busy and what interests us. And we let go of some of that stuff that we have always carried with us,” she said. “Gladys is having fun – eating all of the donuts she can possibly eat. She doesn’t really care what she looks like.”
But people start getting concerned – and it’s not always exactly welcome.
This is also when the Angel of Death pops in, played by another longtime CAT member Bob Greig, who points out that because of some of the concerns shown by others, it’s perhaps Gladys’ time to go.
“Her daughter is worried about her, her best friend is worried about her and her brother is worried about her.
“And all of their family and friends start to visit her, and they are the most annoying bunch of people. To anybody they would be annoying, let alone to a self-sufficient, elderly woman who has a mind of her own.”
During all of this, the Angel of Death is hanging around observing, and later discusses with Gladys the silliness of the various behaviours being shown.
Meanwhile, playwright Frisino Toohey has written 40 plays and had more than 160 productions in the U.S., Canada, Europe and New Zealand.
According to her bio, while playwriting is now her passion and her art, she came to theatre only after a successful career in radio news.
After graduating from the College of Notre Dame, she started at WETT in Ocean City, moved on to WITH in Baltimore, KLOK in San Jose, California and WHDH in Boston.
She then joined NBC’s all-news radio network ‘NIS’ at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York, where she met her husband Bill. When NIS foundered, she went to news-talk WMCA, and then began anchoring at all-news 1010 WINS in New York.
By early 1998, she had completed her first full-length play, Gladys in Wonderland.
For Soderberg, who is also a wonderful actor in her own right, being a director is becoming increasingly compelling and satisfying. “I love acting, but this directing thing is also pretty satisfying when you see the results. All the work that’s done and poof – there they are onstage.”
And for Gladys, she’s also got herself a great mix of folks – from experienced actors to newcomers to the stage to some who have acted but haven’t been in a production for some time.
It’s proven to be a fun, creatively-rich season of pulling a production together.
“It’s been so fun – everybody is really excited about being a part of it and working really hard.”
For tickets, call the Black Knight Inn Ticket Centre at 403-755-6626 or visit www.blackknightinn.ca.