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Strong performances fuel CAT’s latest show

Mending Fences runs at the Black Knight Inn through to April 7th

Fired up by solid performances, Central Alberta Theatre’s latest dinner theatre – Mending Fences – is a top-notch production from start to finish.

First, hats off to director Dale Latam – a terrific actor in her own right – for crafting such a strong show. She has clearly guided her cast of three (Jim Claggett, Carla Falk and Dustin Funk) to bring their very best to the stage, and as a result, the Norm Foster-penned play sparkles with heart throughout.

Shows run at the Black Knight Inn through to April 7th with dinner at 6 p.m.

The story follows Harry Sullivan (masterfully played by Claggett), who hasn’t seen his son Drew (Funk) in 13 years, and now Drew is coming to Harry’s Saskatchewan ranch for a visit.

Right from the get-go, it’s clear that there is plenty for this duo to work through – Drew has much he wishes to confront his father about, but both men have no clear-cut way of communicating at all. Discussions often dissolve into conflict, and yet interestingly they are very much alike. Claggett and Funk are both fantastic in their respective roles, which also require flashback scenes where they take on other roles as well – as Harry’s own father for example or a much younger Drew.

Falk is also outstanding as Harry’s girlfriend Gin. Here’s a tough woman – with lots of heart and her own story to tell – who ultimately helps father and son come to a kind of peace. But it certainly isn’t easy. Falk has such a believability about her when she strolls onstage – she’s always fun to watch as she really embraces each character she plays whole-heartedly. There simply aren’t as many who bring such warmth and charisma to their performances as she does.

But ultimately, I have to say that the show in many ways belongs to Claggett, who started off with CAT several years ago in essentially comedic roles. This play demanded far more from him than those earlier outings, and I’m happy to say that Claggett was – no question – up to the task and beyond.

Harry is a complicated man – he’s a ‘man’s man’ no doubt. But there is plenty of emotion swirling around deep down inside. Claggett captures both these key aspects of his character’s role perfectly. There are scenes when Harry is struggling so hard to articulate how he’s feeling – and you can see the battle going on inside him – but because of his own painful experiences in the past he’s become adept at burying things.

Watching Claggett capture such a tremendous understanding of his character is inspiring to watch.

Funk, also, is just great as his son. He’s a very likable character – something Funk has nailed via his character’s sharp sense of humour. But like his dad, there’s just a lack of an ability to truly say what he feels without cloaking it in some kind of jab or sarcasm. Both men, clearly, have much to learn in the simple art of communication, and Gin, as mentioned, helps guide them to a place where they do begin to connect.

Foster, as he consistently does, has penned a strong, accessible story about the realities of family life – sometimes circumstances can really get in the way, and they can cause significant pain and resentment. How do we find our way back from that? How do folks start over? How do you deal with the past and prevent it from so strikingly impacting the present?

Mending Fences really does have it all – the laughs, the raw emotions, the struggle to connect and the battle to undo damage and find hope. Congrats to all involved – it was not only entertaining but thought-provoking as well.

For ticket information, check out www.blackknightinn.ca.

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