From dreamy crooner tunes to in-your-face disco — Cow Patti’s latest comedy, Wally’s Cafe, follows three lives over four decades, starting with the pre-war years to just after Ronald Reagan’s election in 1981.
Since the characters have to age from 30- to 70-year-olds, it’s lucky the trio of talented actors in this entertaining production (whose actual ages fall somewhere in the middle) can convincingly play both ends of the spectrum.
Talk about energy levels! Friday night’s dinner theatre audience at the Lacombe Golf and Country Club was almost bowled over when Wally (Jamie Williams) and his wife Louise (Susan Greenfield) opened the play in their recently purchased roadside diner in the Mohave Desert. The set, by Tom and AnnaMarie Lea, was authentically retro — like a Woolworth’s lunch counter from the 1940s.
The young couple were springing around in a cleaning frenzy, dancing to ‘their’ song, Blue Moon. Although Louise had difficulty buying into her husband’s dream of operating a truck stop along Route 66, Wally was ecstatic about his opportunity to become a self-made man — and his excitement was palpable.
By the time the third bundle of energy, Hollywood-bound Illinois runaway Janet (AnnaMarie Lea), made her appearance at the cafe, packing suitcases and a hard-luck story of a boyfriend gambling his car away in Vegas, there was practically a vivacity overload.
While the seasoned cast members wisely dialed back their broad performances a whit as the characters aged, their on-stage intensity remained high — which meant there was never a dull moment in this production, directed by Donnie Bowes of Ontario’s Upper Canada Playhouse.
Young actors-in-training could learn a lot about the kind of sustained energy it takes to keep an audience fully engaged by taking in this professional theatre show.
As for the rest of us, Wally’s Cafe, by Sam Bobrick and Ron Clark, doesn’t have any deep themes (think Three’s Company and other overblown sitcoms), but it provides a good time — and a Valentine’s message to boot.
After a life of hard knocks, Louise and Wally conclude there are different yardsticks for measuring success — and a long-lived marriage is one of them.
Enduring friendships are another, as evidenced by Lea’s lovably loopy Janet, who turns up when you least expect her, wearing… well, it defies description, so you’ll just have to see for yourself!
The dinner theatre comedy continues to March 6.