Bernice the maid (Erna Soderberg, left), meets agent Ruby Delvecchio (Roxzane Armstrong), as Hal Savage (Keith Edwards) looks on in CAT’s Self Help. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

REVIEW: CAT’s hilarious dinner theatre farce, ‘Self Help,’ is an inspiration

Norm Foster play runs to Dec. 16

A pair of second-rate actors become millionaires by spouting “Turn the nays into yays!” and other motivational malarkey in Central Alberta Theatre’s hilarious dinner theatre production of Self Help.

Since platitudes, such as “The time is now! The battlefield is life! And the soldier is you!” work so well for Hal and Cindy Savage — turning the married actors into self-help gurus in this Norm Foster farce — I’ll give it a go:

Local theatre-goers are advised to “Out the doubt!” and check out this slapstick show that opens Friday night at the Black Knight Dinner Theatre. Steady laughter resounded throughout Thursday night’s dress rehearsal.

The talented cast of CAT veterans took a chapter from the Savages’ book, which instructs “If you express, you progress!” The community actors expressed their way through Foster’s sharp script, demonstrating great comic timing and an ability to create winning characterizations.

As a result, this absurd sex-romp progressed — gaining chortles from the opening scene at a Flin Flon dinner theatre, to the conclusion in the lavish mansion the Savages bought after bluffing their way to best-selling co-author status.

Although an avalanche of money doesn’t bring the self-help gurus lasting happiness, Hal and Cindy, wonderfully played by Keith Edwards and Angel Peterson, don’t want to lose their privileged lifestyle just because a dead body turns up in their study.

The appearance of their abrasive agent, Ruby Delvecchio (Roxzane Armstrong), as well as a curious detective (Jason Lee) and a nosy reporter (Michael Sutherland) hardly helps their sticky situation. Neither does the Savages’ dim-witted Swedish maid Bernice, who’s unable to figure out the intercom system in their home — or when her presence is unwanted.

Erna Soderberg has a lot of fun playing Bernice, and also does a great job of directing this play, which CAT first staged about a decade ago.

Except for a momentary lull in pacing mid-way through the second act, the action really rolled along on Thursday evening. And Soderberg achieved the right farcical tone with over-the-top reactions, madcap mix-ups and endless sex jokes.

Hal and Cindy left the audience in stitches as they rediscovered their lust for each other at the most inopportune moments — usually between shuffling the corpse from the study to the garden and back again.

For anyone wanting silly laughs, “The time is now!” to see Self Help.

It runs to Dec. 16.

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