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CAT thriller by a renowned Canadian playwright opens this week

‘An Act of the Imagination’ starts Friday at Festival Hall
Central Alberta Theatre actors rehearse a scene from ‘An Act of the Imagination,’ which opens on Friday at Festival Hall in Red Deer. (Contributed photo).

Somebody is about to get murdered in Beatles-era London, and the prime suspect will be a successful mystery novelist.

Central Alberta Theatre’s next play, An Act of the Imagination, by Bernard Slade, will take audiences time-travelling back to 1964 when it opens Nov. 25 at the Festival Hall in Red Deer.

In this mid-century period, men such as veteran novelist Arthur Putnam smoked pipes to look debonair. Women, like his second wife Julia, debated whether above-the-knee skirts would be too risque.

Director Erna Soderberg admitted she’s enjoying lining up standing ashtrays and other arcane set furnishings to recreate this quaint era.

She’s also happy, after directing about 15 comedies, to finally be tackling a thriller.

The CAT veteran is more used to building laughs than tension — as she’s required to do for this play by the renowned late Canadian playwright. (Slade wrote for the TV shows Bewitched, The Flying Nun and The Partridge Family, as well as the Broadways hits Same Time Next Year and Tribute).

“But in a way, timing is just as important, or even more so, because you have to get the audience to listen to what goes on, and then build up to the big surprise,” said Soderberg.

There are plenty of twists and turns in An Act of the Imagination. The play concerns Arthur, a middle-aged writer of 27 whodunits, who surprises everyone, including his wife and agent, by delivering his first romance — about an adulterous affair.

The novel seems so true-to-life that everyone marvels how Arthur could have such piercing insight into the human condition. Is it possible he experienced these events first-hand?

This conjecture takes a darker turn after a young woman shows up on his doorstep, intent on blackmail, claiming she had an affair with Arthur that exactly mirrors the story he wrote.

When this woman later turns up dead, Arthur is implicated in her murder.

Soderberg said she invited a friend to a rehearsal and observed her reaction to the play’s ending. When “her eyes popped” and she grinned, Soderberg was duly satisfied.

She believes the plot is surprising enough that audience members will probably want to go for a coffee after the curtain drops to discuss the play.

With CAT veterans Derek Olinek as Arthur and Carla Falk as Julia,“I have such a great cast, ” said Soderberg, who’s had a lot of satisfaction bringing to this murder mystery to a Red Deer stage.

For more information about the show, please visit

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