Outstanding performances and a briskly-paced script fuel the fun in Central Alberta Theatre’s latest dinner theatre Real Estate, currently being staged at the Black Knight Inn through to March 30th.
Emma Bard (Rachel Stillings) is one spirited and very determined real estate agent. She lands Joel Hopper (Trysten Luck) as a client, and immediately sees not only his property as a fixer-upper, but she also sees Joel as someone who could use a little fixing up himself.
Joel, who has penned a couple of books, has his own struggles – he’s hit a wall in his creative process plus he’s dealing with the fall-out of being served divorce papers. His dad is dying in a nearby facility and there just doesn’t seem to be much light at the end of the tunnel.
To top it off, his soon-to-be former wife Estelle Hopper (Heather Lawrence) shows up with boyfriend Ted Phillips (Michael Richard) in tow which rather complicates everything in Joel’s already topsy-turvy life. But of course, in spite of the mayhem that ensues, things have a way of reaching a sweet and satisfying conclusion. It’s nice to watch a story with characters dealing with things that are relatable to all of us – the complexities of relationships, family, marital breakdown, finding purpose, embracing change and even dealing with grief.
Sounds a bit heavy, but the cool thing is that Real Estate never loses its light, breezy feel. There really isn’t a dull moment to be found as the characters learn much about themselves and the others as circumstances continually bring them closer together in unexpected ways.
Written by Allana Harkin and under the direction of CAT veteran Dale Latam, Real Estate clips along at an engaging pace, built on a really solid script which is delivered by well-developed characters. Of course, those are the basic ingredients – thankfully, with Latam at the helm and this particular cast, the building blocks of Real Estate are in good hands in every way.
Latam knows plenty about the intricacies of comic timing, and her skills at bringing those sensibilities out pop up continually as the play rolls along.
And then there is that delightful cast. It’s hard to think of anyone more fitting for the role of Emma than Stillings, who brings a fun, energetic and quirky spin to the role. Emma may appear all business at first, but there’s much more to this woman that first meets the eye, and Stillings handles those subtle disclosures with grace and lots of charm and wit.
Luck is superb as Joel. Audiences will recognize him from his involvement with the ongoing Sherlock Holmes series (next show is in June) and it’s clear that he’s continuing to grow as a well-rounded, versatile and charismatic young actor.
Luck has range – he can be really funny but he can also capture a sense of being troubled, haunted or deeply unsettled as his character finds his way. Ultimately, he’s a very strong, convincing actor whose diversity is really coming to light, and it will be exciting to see where his path takes him.
As Estelle, Lawrence is also terrific. It’s a role that at first doesn’t seem to offer much, but soon blossoms into a very key part of the show. Like Emma, Estelle has her own issues to tackle and the story shines a light on her growth and how she comes to deal with her conflicting feelings about her soon-to-be ex husband. Lawrence does a masterful job of, like Luck, being funny but being heartbroken and dramatic as well.
Finally, much credit has to go to Richard as well for his turn as Ted, who means well but has a tendency to kind of ‘get in the way’ of the interplay between Joel and Estelle as they make sense of their disintegrating marriage.
In his own way, Ted is a funny guy – a bit on the shallow side, but he’s got a good heart and provides some of the best snickers as the story moves along.
All said, this rendition of Real Estate wouldn’t be as solid if not for the skills of the dedicated cast and crew who have clearly invested so much into it. It’s always a treat to see a cast who have not only embraced their character development so well, but who ‘gel’ so well as a group, too.
For ticket information, check out www.tickets.blackknightinn.ca.