Cynthia Edwards plays Millie Whitman having tea with Dale Latam’s Hilda Campbell during a rehearsal of Central Alberta Theatre’s upcoming play Fishing for Frank.

‘Fishing for Frank’ familiar, funny take on gossipy human nature

The way Ed Campbell and Dick Gillis prattle on about sex, religion and politics, you’d think the two beer-quaffing Nova Scotia fishing buddies have things all figured out in Central Alberta Theatre’s latest comedy, Fishing For Frank.

The way Ed Campbell and Dick Gillis prattle on about sex, religion and politics, you’d think the two beer-quaffing Nova Scotia fishing buddies have things all figured out in Central Alberta Theatre’s latest comedy, Fishing For Frank.

From jawing about their dearly departed neighbour, Frank Whitman, and the scandalous behavior of his estranged wife, Millie, to complaining about Ottawa, the two anglers aren’t shy about speaking their minds in this engaging Daniel Lillford play that opened Friday at City Centre Stage.

When talk turns to former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, the Annapolis Valley drinking buds agree he should have locked up his groupie wife, Margaret, rather than pontificating about “the bedrooms of the nation.”

The United Church? The two figure it’s become a refuge for “deadbeats, fornicators” — and the misguided few who still vote NDP.

Millie? Well, Ed thinks she had no business leaving her husband after 40 years to dive into a relationship with a 30-something “Come-from-away” from Calgary, who’s young enough to be her son. It isn’t normal or decent, he concludes.

Dick jumps in with his own Reader’s Digest-endorsed theory about why a young guy would find slim, youthful Millie attractive: “He must have been bottle fed.”

Dick once read that men who weren’t breast fed as babies are bound to develop a mother complex later in life.

Fishing For Frank, directed by Erna Soderberg, hilariously portrays the kind of gossip in which most people occasionally indulge to feel superior, and act as if they have a handle on how the world works.

Only the second act shows that most of us know nothing about the mysteries of the universe or the human heart. Heck, we don’t even know what’s going on right under our own noses.

Lillford’s smartly written script crackles with subversive humour that’s rooted in reality. Whether or not you’ve ever resided in a small town, if you’re Canadian or have watched The Red Green Show, chances are you’ve known somebody like Ed or Dick.

After seeing so many dinner theatre farces and outrageous comedies, it’s refreshing to see a play based (mostly) on everyday scenarios and characters that act more or less like real people.

Jim Claggett hits the right heights of moral outrage as dim-witted, know-it-all Ed Campbell. This is a man who can’t understand why Millie would have walked out on Frank — while at the same time ignoring every single thing his wife, Hilda, ever tells him.

Dick Gillis is probably the best role yet for CAT veteran Michael Sutherland. For a judgmental guy, Dick turns out to be a bit of a dichotomy. He has enough heart-achy skeletons in his closet to be taking a more open-minded view of life. Yet Dick, presumably, has chosen to overlook the Biblical edict: “Judge not lest you be judged.”

The two women in the cast, Cynthia Edwards as Millie Whitman, and Dale Latam as Hilda Campbell, are pitch perfect as old friends who have taken divergent paths.

While Hilda has embraced conventionality, developing a fondness for her dunder-headed husband and tolerance for her less-than-ideal marriage, mini-skirted Millie endured a much worse family life.

She no longer cares what people think of her. After four decades of putting up with a cold fish of a husband, Millie’s finding widowhood liberating and is off to Montreal to make up for lost time.

Fishing for Frank isn’t only about gossipy human nature, it’s also about missed opportunities, regrets — and second chances.

The comedy with a dinner theatre option continues to Jan. 29 in downtown Red Deer.

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