Cast of The Thin Grey Line, from left, Nigel Lane, Blaine Newton, Vanessa McCagg, and Paul Boultbee. The Red Deer-conceived Fringe play will get a local run Sept. 27-30 at the downtown library. (Contributed photo).

Cast of The Thin Grey Line, from left, Nigel Lane, Blaine Newton, Vanessa McCagg, and Paul Boultbee. The Red Deer-conceived Fringe play will get a local run Sept. 27-30 at the downtown library. (Contributed photo).

Red Deer-conceived Fringe play that pokes fun at aging actors gets a local run

The Thin Grey Line, by Blaine Newton, runs Sept. 27-30 at downtown library

An original play about over-the-hill actors who can’t remember their lines has given three real-life Red Deer thespians a chance to perform at the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival.

Word of mouth about last month’s premiere of Blaine Newton’s comedy The Thin Grey Line at the Fringe ranged from “fabulous” to “laugh-your-ass-off funny,” said its director, Lori Lane, who was gratified by the play’s success in a field of more than 250 productions.

Now central Alberta audiences can see The Thin Grey Line performed locally.

When the zany production opens on Sept. 27, and runs to the 30th in the Snell Auditorium at Red Deer’s downtown library, the play will have come full circle, said Lane.

The idea for it was hatched in Red Deer a couple of years ago, when Newton (a local actor and playwright who recently moved to Edmonton) was bemoaning the lack of roles for aging male actors.

Nigel Lane, a local performer (and Lori’s spouse), told him, “Why don’t you write some then?” recalled Lane. And Newton took up the challenge.

His original script for The Thin Grey Line was read to an audience a year ago, as part of the Red Deer Players’ Breaking Cover Series at the downtown library.

Earlier this summer, Newton decided to fully mount the comedy on stage after his Cursive Writing Productions got a Fringe spot. He asked Lori Lane to direct and cast the actors the roles were written for.

Newton, himself, will portray aging thespian Barrett Osbertisson. Paul Boultbee will be Patrick Fortesque, while Nigel Lane will play the third actor in the company, Niles Jones.

The cement holding their fictional production together is the stage manager, Sybil Crossley, played by Red Deer College theatre and film alumni Vanessa McCagg.

Lane said it’s Sybil who must remind the actors of what their lines are — and even what their costume changes are — as their mental lapses grow.

The audience never finds out what play the three actors are performing, as all of the hectic action takes place in the dressing room, while the fictional production is supposedly happening off-stage.

But viewers knows it must be one outrageous show, based on the costume changes they see.

“One of the actors is in drag,” said Lane, while another straps on a peg leg.

“There are also cowboys, jailbirds and bunny rabbits…”

An amused audience member called The Thin Grey Line “Monty Python meets the Golden Girls” — which Lane feels is a pretty apt description.

For tickets and more information about the production that’s hosted by the Red Deer Players and Red Deer Public Library, contact the Black Knight Ticket Centre.

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