Laughs and insight highlight CAT’s latest show

Central Alberta Theatre offers up a pleasant comedy with a sharp look at the intricacies of ‘middle aged dating’ via its production of Looking.

The play runs through to May 17 at the Nickel Studio (located adjacent to the Memorial Centre complex). Curtain is at 7:30 p.m.

Penned by Norm Foster and directed by Lynn Olson, Looking explores the interconnected relationships of Val (Cynthia Edwards), Nina (Nicole Orr), Andy (Jim Claggett) and Matt (Robert Van der Linden.)

Val, and operating room nurse, is feeling the urge to dive back into the dating scene – albeit very cautiously, which is line with her conservative outlook. She’s got a good heart, but everything seems to have to run in a precise way for her to maintain peace of mind – she even exercises in a stilted, jittery manner.

Meanwhile, her pal Nina couldn’t be more different. Nina is exuberant – a real free spirit – with an openness about men and sex that hasn’t always worked in her favour.

On the surface, the pair wouldn’t seem to have much in common, but Edwards and Orr are very convincing in their roles and they also portray a real care and concern for each other. They aren’t afraid to tell each other how it is, but they are protective of each other as well.

Then we have Andy (Claggett) and Matt (Van der Linden). Andy responds to a personal ad for a date and winds up meeting Val, who has brought along Nina for moral support. Andy has also brought Matt with him for the same reason. But things take an unexpected turn during that awkward first date with a couple hooking up – but not the couple we would have expected.

Much of the play really focuses on Andy’s struggle to overcome his insecurities as he tries to find his way into Val’s heart. Claggett captures the ‘everyman’ nature of Andy perfectly – with loads of comedic charm at every turn.

Claggett is really growing in his acting strengths – each performance sees him step out more and more – he’s got a natural gift of timing when it comes to nailing a line or capturing just the right facial expression. Similarly, Orr can always be counted on for a dynamic and energetic performance. Like Claggett, she is really a joy to watch thanks to her ability to express herself. Both actors really shine in an ensemble as well.

Van der Linden is excellent as Matt, too. It’s great to see his character go through a bit of a journey when it comes to his relationship with Nina – when things turn sour he really shows his versatility as an actor.

Edwards is really the ideal choice to play the comparatively uptight Val, as well. Edwards can also always be counted on for a solid, engaging performance – this character brings to light other strengths as well. Val may seem rather fragile and nervous much of the time, but she’s a pretty tough, independent and single-minded woman who eventually finds what she wants.

Olson has done an outstanding job of melding the talents of each cast member with the others – rarely have I seen a better, more natural blend of singular actors in a single CAT show. Best of all, they are all clearly enjoying themselves as they affectionately bring their characters to life, and that injects an energy and charm all on its own.

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

editor@reddeerexpress.com

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