By Pat Casement
Farce came to the hall at Rose Valley on April 11 and 12, when Rose Valley Community Players Theatre delivered more than one superb performance of Big Bucks, a play by Pat Cook.
According to Dianne Zagrodney Ball before the first show, “Our prompter Sue Calder commented after the dress rehearsal, ‘That was our worst one ever.’” It was not a positive note, but the show must go on, and fortunately “slow start, strong finish” is what came to mind afterward.
The play is set in the living room of a plantation deep in the southern States, and the cast successfully maintains southern accents throughout.
The plantation owner played by Ryan Calder is Big Buck Fever. This patriarch of dubious character finds himself in financial distress and his worries are compounded when the IRS comes calling in the form of Marvin Kreshler, played by Brad Vellacott. It is Kreshler’s job to perform a tax audit on Big Buck’s business affairs. Enter Nancy Fever, played by Holly Schweitzer. Nancy is Big Buck’s somewhat promiscuous daughter, who sees it as her duty to persuade Kreshler to abandon his audit and pursue more feminine things, namely herself.
Big Buck is considering this twist when his life takes another turn. Hillary Keith, played by Alyssa Slinn, walks in and announces that her company is building a freeway through Fevers’ mansion.
Myron Fever, played by Caelen Lupien, is not the apple of his daddy’s eye. Myron, rather than following in the redneck footsteps of his father, is studying to be an archeologist. Much to the amazement of Big Buck, the charming Miss Keith is unaccountably taken by the young man.
Adding yet more twists to the plot, Buck’s wife Mama Fever, played by Zagrodney Ball, is planning a big surprise for Buck while his mother Grama Fever, played by Val Bjerland, is out shootin’ people and wrestlin’ horses.
Big Buck is commencing to head for the hills when bodies start turning up in his front yard. Fortunately the housekeeper Hildegarde, played by Cathy Holt, is able to keep the house in running order in spite of the chaos.
The audience laughed boisterously throughout the play and gave the cast a well-earned standing ovation at the conclusion, when the whole potpourri of plots culminated in a culinary delight.
The role of Big Buck was an onerous one but ably crafted by veteran actor Calder, who pulled off a very credible southern gentleman and added a touch of humour by ad libbing “If we could only remember something … like our lines.” Zagrodney Ball’s depiction of a supportive, unflappable southern-belle wife was flawless. The irascible Grama Fever could not have been better cast; Bjerland owned the part so perfectly she may find herself typecast in productions to come. Schweitzer as the flighty daughter and Lupien as meek son Myron enacted their roles as if they’d been born to play them.
Supporting this diverse family were the “outsiders” Vellacott and Slinn. Vellacott seamlessly transformed from stern, demanding IRS representative Kreshler into the lovestruck, mooning Marvin, and Slinn’s portrayal of Miss Keith was solid.This leaves only the snotty housekeeper Hildegarde; one just ached to give her a well-deserved smack. When you can make an audience member feel that way, you have truly done your job; a bouquet to the talents of Holt.
After the play, director Richard Petersen commented, “This was a fun group to work with and some of the ad libs during practice would have everyone laughing till they hurt.” He claimed to be looking forward to next year – and he still has all his hair!
The stage production was enhanced by a live orchestra. Providing music from “the pit” were Sheila Hanson, Bob Walker, Jack Lowndes and Al Wheatley. This play really cried for live music and the “pit crew” did not disappoint, icing the cake for those in attendance. In addition to traditional dinner theatre fare, the Rose Valley hosts arranged live entertainment during the intermission. The Pipestone Men’s Choir belted out a selection of numbers that showcased their fine voices.
Amateur theatre enthusiasts bubbled over with favourable comments about both the play and the performers.
Somewhat overshadowed in all this was the set. The decor was subtle but spot-on, right down to the black and white portrait of Big Buck and his loving family.
That leaves this reporter echoing the sentiments of director Petersen. “I can’t wait for next year!”
Break a leg!