Central Alberta Theatre is delving into the New Year on a suspenseful note with Cliffhanger, which opens Jan. 19th at the Black Knight Inn.
Dinner starts at 6 p.m. with the play to follow. Performances of the play, which was penned by James Yaffe, run through to Feb. 9th.
Directed by CAT veteran actor Michael Sutherland, Cliffhanger – which was published in the mid-1980s – focuses on a college professor and his wife (Henry and Polly Lowenthal) who, through a stunning and extraordinary turn of events, find themselves in quite the moral quagmire.
Henry is played by another very recognizable CAT alumnus Bob Greig, with Liz Bennett as Polly.
According to the synopsis, “Mingling suspense and humour, this ingeniously plotted thriller follows all the unexpected twists and turns that result when a seemingly mild-mannered professor of philosophy is driven to apparent murder to protect his reputation and career.”
Things get ugly when Henry and a particular colleague by the name of Edith Wilshire meet to chat about changes to Henry’s department.
It also so happens that one of Henry’s students, Melvin, also gets involved with the mix as he has certain knowledge about what Henry has been up to. A detective by the name of Dave DeVito also enters the picture so of course the pressure really starts to build. “He’s of course searching for a perpetrator.”
Jaret Pack stars at Melvin McMullen with Ryan Mattila as DeVito and Cynthia Edwards (another familiar face to CAT audiences not to mention a gifted actress in her own right) rounding out the fine cast.
A swirling tale of suspense results from the goings-on of all of the above, and Sutherland couldn’t be more pleased with his outstanding cast and how they’ve blended their talents together for a seamless and compelling production that packs a punch.
“There is comedy throughout, and it’s a really interesting play because there are also some really, really good lines. You don’t usually get laughs in something of this nature,” explained Sutherland. “It really builds right from the beginning.
“Rippling throughout the play are some really rich lines.”
Sutherland is really a terrific and engaging actor, having appeared in more than 30 productions over the years.
This marks his first time directing a major production on his own. He co-directed the exceptionally strong production of The Melville Boys for CAT in early 2017.
“The mark of a good manager is to put people around you who know what to do,” he said with a laugh.
As for his own directing style, Sutherland sees it as more of a ‘working alongside’ than that of micromanaging his talented troupe. And in the meantime, it’s been a joy seeing it all take shape as the weeks in preparation have passed.
“After seeing it come to life with other voices and actors doing other things, I see it – and the more we rehearse, I see it more and more.
“I also don’t want to be a micro-managing director,” he added, pointing out the key is to have actors’ explore the motivations of their characters to help ‘flesh out’ their roles. “I’m not going to say, ok, I want you to cry in this scene as opposed to saying, what does this mean to you? How are you going to show it? That way, they have to draw from within.”
For Sutherland, whether he’s acting or directing, there really is no place quite so magnetic as the theatrical world with all of its magic and camaraderie.
“For me, it’s all fun. I have so much fun. I have been very lucky to have been able to be associated not only with good people but with talented people.”
For tickets, visit www.tickets.blackknightinn.ca.