Central Alberta Theatre has unveiled their latest production – The Oldest Profession – last week at the Nickle Studio with shows running through March 8.
Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. The Nickle Studio is located in the Memorial Centre complex.
Penned by Paula Vogel and directed by CAT veteran Derek Olinek, The Oldest Profession stars Erna Soderberg, Rachelle McComb, Carla Falk, Pam Snowden and Glorene Ellis.
The Oldest Profession is one of those plays that melds comedy and poignancy in a really effective way. A solid cast, under the capable leadership of Olinek, have put together a solid, affecting story that kicks off with lots of laughs as we see into the lives of an aging group of prostitutes working in New York City.
It’s the dawn of the 1980s, and Ursula (Soderberg), Vera (McComb), Lillian (Snowden) and Edna (Falk) face the uncertainties and challenges of their line of work with a clientele that is literally dying off.
It’s not easy for them either, as they face a host of issues that come with getting older.
Vogel has written a winning script, and gives each of the characters lots of room to shine, from the sharp-tongued, sarcastic Ursula (Soderberg does a masterful job of capturing this woman’s crusty nature and her razor-sharp and timely wit) to the sunniest of the bunch – Vera – wonderfully played by McComb. Bringing an almost childlike innocence to the part, it’s tough to imagine anyone better suited to the role of Vera.
Falk is always fun to watch in pretty much any role she lands, and it’s no different here. As Edna, she brings an unbridled enthusiasm and gusto to the role, but there’s a steely side to her as well. Edna is fun but she’s tough, and Falk nails those aspects beautifully.
Lillian is also a lot of fun too. Bold, sexy and forward-focused, this is a woman who has seen it all but still has a tender side too. Snowden, like Falk, manages to find those various parts of her character’s personality to great effect.
Finally, Ellis is ideal for the part of Mae. She’s lovely, classy and dignified and has a big heart. Mae’s care for her girls is sincere, and Ellis is a delightful presence to watch onstage as her own personal journey unfolds as well.
As mentioned, the laughs are pretty steady in the first half, but the second half focuses more on the women facing the obstacles of getting older. There’s almost a frantic feel to how things begin to unfold – there are some deaths and the threat of poverty is always lurking nearby.
And while there are still some laughs, it’s a very different world they find themselves in as they play draws to a close. Alienation and isolation are harsh realities, and the pain of loneliness stirs up questions in viewers’ minds no doubt. What happens to prostitutes when they reach a certain age? What does nearing the end of life mean for them? Who can they turn to for help?
Olinek has done a super job of guiding these actors to offer their best. There’s the comedy, but there are lots of dramatic moments too. And heartache. He’s clearly guided them along their own creative journeys and the result is a seamless story, that while it may not appeal to all, does work in entertaining and strongly challenging a modern audience.
Tickets are available at the Black Knight Inn Ticket Centre by calling 403-755-6626 or visiting www.blackknightinn.ca.