Last season St. Albert Dinner Theatre took a survey of patrons to see what they enjoy. Comedies and mysteries came out on top.
Now opening its 11th season, St. Albert Dinner Theatre (SADT) is mounting Wrong Window, a whodunit lampooning Alfred Hitchcock horror-thrillers. The two-act production runs three weekends on Nov. 10 to 12, 17 to 19 and 24 to 26 at Kinsmen Banquet Centre.
New Jersey based playwrights, Billy VanZandt and Jane Milmore take a zany approach to writing. The duo has collaborated on 23 plays such as international hit comedy, You’ve Got Hate Mail, cult favourite Drop Dead and a perennial summer choice, Love, Sex, and the I.R.S.
In Wrong Window, an on-and-off New York couple Marnie and Jeff Elbies have just gotten back together after a one-year separation. They are entering a complicated phase of their relationship but are going out to dinner with best friends Midge and Robbie Smith. Before dinner, the foursome believe they see the murder of Lila Larswald, a neighbour living across Jeff and Marnie’s courtyard.
Marnie convinces Midge to sneak into the neighbour’s apartment believing Thor, Lila’s husband killed her. Misdirection, body snatchings, a chase scene and a stage fight contribute to the general chaos.
“It’s a spoof on Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. The playwrights have taken a number of things from Hitchcock. They’ve taken out the seriousness and written it as a homage to Hitchcock. Every character has at least one line that references Hitchcock,” said director Stuart McGowan, a seasoned thespian with Fort Saskatchewan’s Sheeptown Players.
A relatively new face locally, McGowan first directed Self-Help during SADT’s 10th anniversary season. The company invited him to direct Wrong Window after Self-Help received high audience appreciation, positive reviews, and the cast welcomed his style and insights.
While working through scenes and interpreting dialogue, McGowan encourages his cast to have fun.
“If they’re having fun, the audience will pick up on it and have fun.”
The cast is made up of four main characters and four supporting roles. In the main roles, actor Xera Preshing landed the role of Marnie, a writer of Gothic murder mysteries. Her husband, Jeff, played by Kelly Krause, is a mixed bag of nerves and is in therapy for a freakish fear of birds.
Colin Stewart returns to SACT as Robbie Smith. Robbie is Jeff’s best friend, a jovial buddy and the group’s voice of reason. Carolyn McGratton is Midge Smith, Marnie’s best friend and an accountant.
“But she has a small issue with kleptomania.”
The supporting characters include Thor and Lila Larswald.
“Thor is played by Christopher Thrall. Thor is in his mid-fifties, is cantankerous and is in the trades. He’s muscular, has a short temper and is abusive to his wife,” McGowan said. “Sarah Gibson plays Lila. She’s a yoga instructor and is learning to stand up for herself. She’s a trophy wife, much younger and very sexy.”
A staple of SADT, Rob Beeston takes on the role of Detective Doyle Thomas. Since the foursome are unable to produce a shred of evidence, as a police officer he does not believe a murder was committed. Thomas also threatens to arrest anyone who persists in claiming a crime was committed without visible evidence.
“He’s very strait-laced, very matter of fact. It’s just the facts ma’am. He’s like Jack Webb from Dragnet. This is how it is. No suppositions. No guessing.”
Comedian Tim Kubasek is cast as Loomis, a maintenance man with a peculiar personality.
“He’s a Schneider-like character from One Day at a Time. He thinks he’s a lot more than what he is. As the maintenance man, he turns up at odd times. There’s something not right with this boy. He doesn’t always catch on and does a lot of foreshadowing through dialogue.”
McGowan hopes the audience immerses itself in the whodunit.
“There are so many misdirections, and at one point everyone gets accused of something. I want the audience to enjoy it. But I also want them to sit on the edge of their seats.”
Wrong Window runs Nov.10 to 12, 17 to 19 and 24 to 26. Buffet dinner is at 6 p.m. Showtime is 8 p.m. at Kinsmen Banquet Hall, 47 Riel Drive. Single tickets are $65, groups of 10 or more $60. Call 780-222-0102 or online at www.stalberttheatre.com.