Choke poignantly explores fall-out of a stroke

Rarely has a production in Red Deer held such raw dramatic punch as Against the Wall’s latest offering Choke, currently being staged at the Scott Block.

The production, written by Cathleen Roostaert and masterfully directed by RDC alumnus Jenna Goldade, explores the topic of a stroke and its devastating impacts on a family.

Shows run though Nov. 13. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. with curtain at 8 p.m.

Choke features a fantastic cast including Tanya Ryga, Steven Charlton and Paul Sutherland who star Catherine and her sons Dylan and Greg respectively. The guys are a couple of video-game junkie adults who for one reason or another don’t want to leave the roost.

Catherine is a charming, lovely and hard-working woman who lost her husband many years ago. Her sons are first and foremost in her life, despite the fact that Dylan (Charlton) has no real plans for his future and Greg (Sutherland) has serious relationship problems with his long-time girlfriend and lands back unexpectedly in the nest.

Things are bustling along in relative dysfunction until Catherine suffers a debilitating stroke. Suddenly, the family is turned upside down as the guys struggle with adopting the role of primary caregivers for the ailing mother.

While there are humourous moments popping up throughout the script, the play also has many absolutely heart-wrenching moments. Ryga is amazing at capturing the frustrations and struggle of someone who has lost so much after a stroke. Her performance is inspiring, heartbreaking and hopeful – mesmerizing on virtually every level.

Charlton and Sutherland are also outstanding as the sons. Dylan’s compassion for his mom while struggling to define himself as an adult presents many of the play’s most poignant moments. As Greg, Sutherland also easily nails his character’s sense of frustration over his mother’s condition.

Greg is stuck in a career he’s not happy in and his anger and intensity at his circumstances are consistently at the boiling point. It’s a stark contrast with his genuine concern for Catherine and his own inabilities to initially deal with her tragedy and how it’s affecting him personally.

Ultimately, Choke is really an astounding and intensely moving show. And again, although it’s billed as a dramatic comedy, it’s the serious moments that are the most gripping and showcase each of the actors’ incredible abilities to pour so much into their performances. The story doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities, and that’s what makes it so compelling. Much credit must also go to Jenna Goldade for guiding her actors along to such meaningful, resoundingly heartfelt performances.

Tickets for Choke are available at the door, and can also be reserved by emailing