Compelling start to CAT theatre season

Opting to tap into a fresh, comparatively dramatic direction, Central Alberta Theatre is off to a strong start this season with Waiting for the Parade.

The dinner theatre production is being staged at the Black Knight Inn through Oct. 31.

Dinner is at 6 p.m. with curtain at 8 p.m.

The setting is Calgary during the tension-filled days of the Second World War.

Five woman are viewing the turbulent times from an array of perspectives. It’s all about coping, keeping busy and focusing on anything but one’s own fear, hopelessness and loneliness.

Directed by CAT newcomer Greg Clark and penned by John Murrell, the play, which nicely balances splashes of humour with scenes of striking poignancy, has landed lots of awards since its introduction back in 1977.

The women aren’t exactly close friends, but their worlds blend together as the time rolls on in a series of scenes that touch on everything from family estrangements and racism to the lure of adultery in the face of crushing loneliness.

Performances measure up to the strength of the script as well. Donna Carter is wonderful as the forthright, outspoken but lovable Margaret and Vicki Dykes is particularly strong in the role of German immigrant Marta.

Having to face the ugliness of increasing racist outbursts, Marta copes with it all with grace and dignity. Her relationship with her father is also a source of anguish at times, and she has her raw, tender and vulnerable moments which Dykes handles with extraordinary care.

CAT newcomer Amanda Lohman is delightful as young, idealistic teacher Eve and Cynthia Edwards shows her diversity as Catherine – who taps into her humorous side often to deal with her aching loneliness stemming from her husband who is a world away, fighting in the war.

Finally, Melodie MacLean is also perfectly cast as impeccably practical, no-nonsense Janet.

She’s got her own issues to face, as her husband’s work is deemed an essential service, so he can stay home. But amidst all her endless tasks and vigilance to throw herself and others into the war effort on the home front, she’s got her own sudden and private hurt to work through.

MacLean convincingly captures both Janet’s brash, icy strength and her life-altering heartbreak.

To his credit, Clark, who relocated from Drumheller last year and has extensive theatrical experience, has directed his actors to some extremely fine moments, in both light-hearted experiences and those of utter bleakness.

And perhaps best of all, the production sheds new light on the strengths and range of what CAT is capable of doing.

Those strengths have often been lost in some dinner theatre shows that simply haven’t offered casts enough challenge and thereby served up hollow productions.

Waiting for the Parade, while not to everyone’s taste because of the era its set in or the exclusive female perspective, is a welcome and very well-crafted shift in creative vision for a troupe that has much to offer.

Enhancing the show further is musical selections reflective of the period and scenic artwork by Carole Forhan, Susan Barker and Issy Covey.

Next up in CAT’s dinner theatre run is Dry Streak which opens Nov. 12.

For tickets, check out www.blackknightinn.ca or call 403-755-6626.