Loving The Love List

The Love List is the perfect comedy about a perfectly inexplicable woman.

Tilly van Keule during a rehearsal for the Central Alberta Theatre production of The Love List.

Tilly van Keule during a rehearsal for the Central Alberta Theatre production of The Love List.

The Love List is the perfect comedy about a perfectly inexplicable woman.

The riotously witty Norm Foster play that opened Friday at the Black Knight Dinner Theatre is not only the best production Central Alberta Theatre has staged in some time — it’s also an ideal antidote to any thoughts about changing a couple aspects of a romantic partner’s personality.

Try it and you’re playing with fire — just ask Bill about what trouble could ensue.

As the play’s central character, Bill is a boring statistician who’s happily single — until his well-meaning friend Leon asks him to fill out a match-making list of the traits he wants in a lover.

(You know this play is a fantasy when the list isn’t obtained from the e-Harmony website, but from a mysterious neighbourhood gypsy woman).

While Leon thinks “big breasts” should make the Top 10, Bill thinks more along the lines of wanting a well-versed partner, who “likes to kiss me.”

Soon after the reluctant Bill is cajoled by Leon into completing the romantic wish list, Justine comes knocking.

Not only is the vivacious blond a certified hotty, but guess what? Justine happens to like Tennyson’s poetry and laying wet kisses on Bill’s lips.

Bill knows something funny is going on, but he’s too infatuated to think too hard about it.

Anyway, what’s a guy to do under the circumstances, but enjoy the ride — which is pretty much what the audience does, as the mystery of Justine is eventually revealed in this clever comedy.

Director Sharon-Eve Lang does a fantastic job of pacing and casting this production, which rests on establishing a believable friendship between Bill and Leon.

CAT veteran Keith Ainscough appears to have been born to play a statistician. He completely disappears into the role of Bill, a somewhat obsessive guy who keeps “files,” in the form of newspaper clippings, scattered all around his bizarre bachelor pad. His gawd-awful apartment, courtesy of set designer Stuart Reid, seems straight out of a 1972 decorating magazine.

Ainscough’s dry and slightly whiny delivery is pitch-perfect — as is his sense of comic timing as Bill chides Leon for deigning to advise him about relationships.

Leon (played on Friday by Paul Battle, who is sharing the role with Craig Scott), is admittedly the last person who should be counselling anyone, as he can barely sustain his own marriage because of his philandering.

Battle, a CAT newcomer, could have really slimed it up as Leon, but to his credit, he keeps the character real and amiable, despite his faults. The play’s plot-line counts on Leon genuinely caring about Bill — and that shines through in Battle’s understated performance.

Another CAT newbie, Tilly van Keule, plays the mystery woman, Justine, who seems a little too tailor-made for anyone’s good.

Van Keule is called upon to change gears more often than a car in stop-and-go traffic — and she does it effortlessly, jumping from a sex kitten to a clean freak, and a confident career woman to an insecure neurotic. It’s truly a bravura performance.

The Love List is a perfect valentine for anyone who likes a good laugh and a breezy evening of theatre. Sections of Friday’s audience even gave the show a standing ovation — a rare feat for a dinner theatre production.

See it and learn what not to do when seeking a romantic partner.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com