Categories: Entertainment

Shadow Theatre closes season with a Sharp thriller

St. Albert's Jenna Dykes-Busby (Judy Parker) looks warily over her shoulder at Linda Grass's Eleanor Innes

Trying to coax director John Hudson into revealing important plot points of Shadow Theatre’s latest mystery thriller is like trying to drink milk from a coconut without first drilling holes. It’s impossible. You could say Hudson is a tough nut to crack.

There are several interesting reveals in playwright David Belke’s Becoming Sharp opening tomorrow night at Backstage Theatre that he feels are best kept under wraps for the time being.

As director, Hudson has masterminded the production’s resurrection. It was first mounted exactly a decade ago in 2005.

“David loves this work and we haven’t touched it in 10 years. David and I felt that the first show hadn’t gelled the way we wanted it to and we spent the last year working on it. It is t-e-r-r-i-f-i-c,” chuckles Hudson with his trademark enthusiasm.

And he humbly gives Belke full credit for the show’s rebuild.

“The thing of it is that David has such a wide breadth of knowledge. He’s such a pop culture geek. He’s captured the language of the ’60s. It’s quite flamboyant, quite articulate. We work well refining how the play works. He composes the score and I’m like the conductor of a pop orchestra.”

Set in 1962, Belke spoofs that era’s craze of Nancy Drew mysteries ghost written by a cadre of writers and published under the pseudonym of Carolyn Keene.

In Belke’s spoof of the adolescent mystery fiction, Eleanor Innes (Linda Grass) has made her fame and fortune writing about 30 hit mysteries under the fake name of Sylvia Sharp.

Eleanor is dramatic, flamboyant and unfortunately, she’s hit a writer’s block. She’s dry of ideas and hires the younger Judy Parker to pen a script at her secluded countryside home in upstate New York.

Completing the odd-wheel in the trio of women is Penelope (Lianne Shannon) a “creepy housekeeper” who always appears when least expected.

For Judy, working with a famous writer and possibly meeting publishers is the opportunity of lifetime.

But as Hudson guardedly points out, “It becomes something of a Faustian bargain.”

St. Albert actor Jenna Dykes-Busby in the role of naĂŻve Judy relishes playing this gung-ho character.

“She’s trying to create something beyond what she’s writing now. She’s an eager, aspiring writer and she wants to change the world,” says Jenna Dykes-Busby.

Dykes-Busby cut her first stage teeth at St. Albert Children’s Theatre before spending two years in the MacEwan musical theatre program.

Since returning from the obligatory Toronto experience, Dykes-Busby has tackled assorted plays ranging from musicals, comedy and drama.

Her performance as Filigree, a young psychotic woman imprisoned in a testing laboratory during the recently completed Category E, was powerful and a testament to her polished acting chops.

Judy is a wonderful change from Filigree – a charming young woman whole-heartedly committed to the craft of writing. As her confidence grows, so do the weird events occurring at the estate.

Busby-Dykes believe it’s the character interactions that give the play its fire.

“It’s a fun two hours to escape and going into this world of zany people.”


Becoming Sharp
Shadow Theatre
Runs April 29 to May 17
Backstage Theatre
ATB Financial Arts Barns
10330 – 84 Ave.
Tickets: $11 to $27, Saturday matinees $11 to $16. Call 780-420-1757 or purchase online at tixonthesquare.ca

Anna Borowiecki: Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.