Cow Patti is kicking off Canada’s 150th birthday year with the situation comedy, Wally’s Cafe.
The play is co-written by Montrealer Ron Clark (along with American playwright Sam Bobrick), and will be staged with “100 per cent Canadian talent,” said AnnaMarie Lea, artistic director of Lacombe’s professional theatre company.
Lea will tackle one of the three roles, performing alongside Ontario actors Susan Greenfield and Jamie Williams.
The dinner theatre comedy that opens on Thursday, Feb. 9, at the Lacombe Golf and Country Club, will be directed by Donnie Bowes, artistic director of Upper Canada Playhouse. Lea considers him “the most successful director of a summer theatre in the country.”
Wally’s Cafe isn’t set in Canada, however. It takes place in a small roadside diner along the fabled Route 66 in Nevada. But Lea believes the story line that follows the same characters over a 40-year span will be relatable to anyone who’s ever followed a dream.
Wally, a man in his early 30s, purchases a small diner in the desert because opportunity beckons. His wife, Louise, has her doubts about being stuck in the middle of nowhere. But, knowing how much the restaurant means to Wally, she ends up slinging hash, miles from Las Vegas.
It’s 1940 when the play opens. One of Wally and Louise’s customers is Janet, who’s running away from her life in Illinois to try to become a movie star.
While Janet’s talents are dubious, Wally and Louise try to be supportive. The three friends meet again over the course of the play, in the late 1950s and then in the early 1980s. Lea said they are, meanwhile, dealing with everyday trials — from career setbacks to marital tribulations.
The biggest challenge in the production will be portraying characters who age over four decades. As Janet, Lea must initially summon the energy of a 20-year-old, and by the end of the play, project the more grounded personality of someone approaching retirement.
“I’m closer to 70 now than I am to 20,” she admitted. But Lea remembers what it was like to face the limitless opportunities and unknowable fears of a 20-something-year-old. For this reason, she feels it will be easier to play young, than the reverse.
If the actors do their jobs, Lea feels audience members will soon be transported to a different time and place by characters they will grow to like — and chuckle along with. “Mostly I hope they will have a good laugh” she said, and perhaps revisit their own hopes and dreams.
For more information about various dinner options and charitable nights, in which part of ticket receipts go to local non-profits, please visit www.cowpatti.com or call 403-304-6329.
Lea is pleased almost $19,000 was raised for charity from the last Cow Patti production, The Butler Did It.