CAT on solid ground with latest show

  • Oct. 17, 2012 3:08 p.m.

Central Alberta Theatre’s second offering of the season is built on a simple premise, but steadily builds as a solid tale fueled by strong performances.

2 Across continues its run Oct. 18-21 in the Memorial Centre’s Nickle Studio.

Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. except for the Sunday performance, which begins at 6 p.m.

Featuring Deb O’Brien and Derek Olinek, the play takes place on a train leaving the San Francisco airport bound for the end of the line in East Bay.

Interestingly, the show, which was written by Jerry Mayer, is timed to match the 85-minute journey. Seated across from one another are two strangers who have nothing in common save for a crossword puzzle. At first, conversation is strained as Janet tries in vain to focus on her puzzle while Josh natters away about a range of topics.

But as time passes, Janet, who has a few heartaches of her own, lets her guard down ever so slightly and the charismatic and charming Josh brings a spark of joy to her world. Mayer’s script is really well-crafted, it flows naturally and the conversations between the two feel authentic. There are several humourous moments and some poignant ones as well, as both of the characters learn more about themselves while becoming more and more familiar with each other.

O’Brien is a delight to watch – she’s always strong, confident and convincing in any role she tackles. This time around is no different. We watch her move from being stuck in a lonely unhappiness to recapturing a luminous part of her personality she had perhaps left behind long ago.

Like O’Brien, Olinek is really a solid performer as well. He’s funny, expressive and consistently entertaining as he fleshes out his character’s spirited philosophies on life.

Pacing is a problem here and there, and there are a few weak, meandering patches in the script. But ultimately, I can’t imagine the challenge for O’Brien and Olinek who are the only two onstage at all times and must not only keep conversation flowing but also have their emotions evolving as the story progresses. But they manage it just fine.

The folks at CAT got of to a bit of a rocky start this season with the bizarre and uneven Greater Tuna, but they’re getting closer to finding their strengths with a show such as 2 Across. Director Erna Soderberg has assembled a great cast and brought out a pleasant story of how a chance meeting can have far-reaching consequences.

Tickets are available at the Black Knight Inn ticket office by calling 403-755-6626 or visiting