Playgoers of Lethbridge is revisiting an old friend for February — Derek Benfield’s British comedy “Beyond a Joke.” Instead of a main stage production, which was how the long-standing community theatre group performed the play 10 years ago, this time it will be performed as a dinner theatre in the Italian Canadian Canadian Club (1511 St. Edward Blvd. N.), Feb. 6-10.
“We did it 10 years ago as a main stage production,” noted director Elaine Jagielski.
“But we decided to do a dinner theatre because the Yates/Sterndale Theatre is closed for renovations. We always do well with dinner theatres,” she added.
In addition to a new venue, they also welcome a mostly new cast including Rob Berezay as Andrew; Jocelyn Steinborn as Jane; Aaron Tyslau as Geoff; Stephanie Wickham as Sally; Jaclynn Elfring as Sarah; Kevin Reedyk as the Vicar: Marcie Stork as Audrey and Howard Pearson as Edgar.
While most of them are new to the Playgoers of Lethbridge stage, they are not new to the stage.
“We have two from Coutts, one from Milk River and one from Taber. So they performed in Taber and Milk River and we have university students. One of them hasn’t been on stage, but has been an extra in movies like Fargo,” Jagielski said.
Marcie Stork has been in numerous Playgoers of Lethbridge productions and Taber actor Jocelyn Steinborn was in “Always a Bridesmaid” in 2016.
Most of them come in from out of town and have been braving winter roads for rehearsals.
“One of them works out of town and comes in for rehearsals. They haven’t missed one of them,” Jagielski said.
“They’ve been great. They’re excited. There’s really great energy in this cast,” she enthused.
“My favourite part is the energy of the cast. They’re really dedicated. We have a lot of fun but we also get a lot done,” she said.
Jagielski is looking forward to working in the Italian Canadian Club.
“It’s a larger venue and a different venue. it’s also a different meal,” she said, noting dinner will be an Italian dinner of Penne Marinara, Caprese salad, Chicken Masala with roast potatoes and vegetables and Prairie Berry Pie for dessert.
Steinborn is enjoying being part of her second Playgoers of Lethbridge production as Jane.
She made her Playgoers debut with “Always a Bridesmaid” in 2016, but is no stranger to the stage as she has played a part in 11 Taber Players productions as an actor, director and several other roles.
“I play Jane in ‘Beyond a Joke.’ She is the wife and mother. She’s pretty much the straight character in the play. She’s a little bit flighty and married to her husband Andrew, who is a real grumpy smart alec,” she described.
She is excited to be part of the production, and doesn’t mind driving in less-than-ideal road conditions to get to rehearsals.
“Part of the reason for doing this is I love theatre I love meeting new people and making connections, so it’s worth it. That’s my favourite part of it,” she said, adding the character is fun to play as the mother of a madhouse, where unfortunate accidents keep on happening.
“My soon-to-be son-in-law (Geoff in the play) keeps mis-hearing snippets of conversation and keeps misunderstanding the situation. And thinks we’re killing them off. So once we realize that, we play with him like a cat bats around a mouse,” she laughed.
“We never really let him off the hook. There are fast-paced interchanges, some of them very hilarious and some of them bordering on the ridiculous. So it’s really fun,” she said.
Aaron Tyslau plays Geoff, the unwitting victim of this mischief.
“He’s super eccentric. He really wants to impress these people but he has no idea how to do it. He always comes in on the wrong end of the conversation,” said Tyslau.
“From my character’s perspective, he has just walked into house full of murderous lunatics who are stark raving mad,” continued Tyslau who part of Hatrix Theatre’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors” in October — his first production in 10 years.
“I did a lot of theatre in university, so it’s been about 10 years, but it’s good to be back. I still get nervous. It never really goes away,” he said.
Stephanie Wickham, who just graduated from the University of Lethbridge with a BFA in performance, is excited to make her Playgoers of Lethbridge debut as Sally.
“She’s very bubbly and bright, the opposite of me,” Wickham observed.
“She loves Geoff and wants him to meet her family,” she said.
“The most challenging part is staying present when I’m not in the scene and reacting to what’s happening,” Wickham said.
She has enjoyed working with new people.
“I’ve been acting since I was a kid in church pageants at St. Augustine’s and have been studying at the U of L for the past five years. You work with the same group of people all the time. Now I get to work with a different group of people. It’s lots of fun to be able to keep doing it after graduation with a community theatre and I want to keep doing it for the rest of my life,” she said.
“I hope this show will open people’s eyes to the different types of theatre happening in this community, because usually there are big musicals. It’s been a totally amazing experience,” Wickham enthused.
“There’s no deep philosophical meaning to this play. It’s really just for entertainment. There are all the ingredients for a great evening out — there will be good laughs, a good cast, good food and hopefully good company,” Jagielski concluded.
“Beyond a Joke” runs at the Italian Canadian Club, Feb. 6-10.
A $5 cash bar opens at 6 p.m., followed by dinner. The play takes the stage after that.
Tickets are available at Casa, 230 8 St. S. (403-327-CASA) for $58.