CAT offers ‘two for one’ in new production

Central Alberta Theatre is serving up two one-act plays as the company has re-launched dinner theatre productions this month at the North Hill Quality Inn.

Norm Foster’s My Narrator and The Death of Me are both being staged, with shows running through to Nov. 29th. Performances run Thursday through Saturday with dinner starting at 5:30 p.m. and curtain at 7:30 p.m. There are Sunday brunches as well, with the meal starting at noon and curtain at 2 p.m. Deb O’Brien, a terrific actor in her own right, has taken on directing duties for both plays.

My Narrator starts things off on a promising note, with the always-engaging Cynthia Edwards opening the quirky tale that features two young people who, at first glance, have absolutely nothing in common.

Miles is a jittery, awkward fellow working in a clothing store who approaches a customer by the name of Lacey to strike up a conversation. He’s clearly smitten by the attractive young woman and stops at nothing to line up a date.

The aforementioned Edwards serves as Lacey’s interior ‘narrator’ – that voice of guidance in her head that tries to ensure Lacey avoids both personal and relational disaster. Likewise, we learn that Miles also has a narrator – the superb Michael Sutherland – who never fails to crack up audiences with his spot on sense of timing and naturally, unforced wit and charm.

As for the script, it flows along well and takes a couple of unexpected but interesting turns. Jessica Summers and Ian Sheppard, as Lacey and Miles, are also very solid in their respective turns onstage – there’s a believable, natural chemistry between the two, and it’s interesting to see confidence build and walls come down as the characters begin to connect.

Also a winning combination are Edwards and Sutherland – two CAT veterans who, as the witty, expressive narrators, eventually do a little ‘connecting’ of their own.

The Death of Me follows a fellow by the name of John (Josh Earl) who, when he bargains with the Angel of Death (Erna Soderberg) for a second chance at life, discovers fixing the mistakes of one’s past is difficult – to say the least.

One ordinary day he suddenly drops dead and finds himself humorously sparring with the Angel of Death – a hilarious Soderberg, who never fails to light up any stage she sets foot on. There aren’t many quite like her, a charismatic actor who always nails comedic material with confidence, lots of style and plenty of spark.

She offers John the chance to go back to earth, but there’s a certain task he must undertake which makes him incredibly uncomfortable. Plus he’s under a tight timeline.

Let’s just say the task has something to do with the prickly young lady by the name of Cassie (Kira O’Brien) who left him standing at the alter a few years previously. O’Brien is terrific as the sharp-tongued, no-nonsense Cassie who John drops by to chat with.

On the other hand, John seems perpetually edgy and seemingly incapable of uttering a cross word towards anyone. Earl plays the part perfectly, capturing John’s likability, tentativeness and uncertainty to near perfection. Dennis O’Brien, another superbly talented CAT veteran, rounds out the play delightfully in a supportive, yet very key role.

The Death of Me doesn’t work quite as well, in my opinion, as My Narrator. There isn’t quite the consistent flow – and as strong as the acting is, the story itself doesn’t have the sparkle that surfaced time and again in My Narrator. Pacing was a bit of an issue as well, but that’s not a huge obstacle to overcome.

Ultimately, it’s good to see the return of the dinner theatre format, and the presentation of two one-act plays is a refreshing and engaging change of pace.

Kudos to Deb O’Brien who has clearly taken much pride and joy in guiding both stories along – those sensibilities, in turn, have impacted the actors in their respective shows which will only grow more assured, particularly in the case of The Death of Me, as the run continues.

Tickets are available through the Black Knight Inn Ticket Centre by visiting www.blackknightinn.ca or calling 403-755-6626.

editor@reddeerexpress.com

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