If one could quantify entertainment, like placing dots on a graph from zero to 100 based on how entertained one was at an event designed to entertain, there’d be lots of dots on top of the graphs of audience members who have been to a Kamsack Players’ event, especially their annual Christmas dinner theatre.
Many big dots were placed on the graph following the Players’ staging of Exit Laughing by Paul Elliott at the OCC Hall on December 14 and 15.
As the audience entered the hall, a number of them were again heard to say they were impressed with the attractive setting: the large room featuring black-covered tables beautifully set for a banquet, and accented by red napkins and miniature candles. The focus of the room was at the opposite corner where a large stage containing the set, created from elements that were hauled from the Playhouse Theatre to become Connie Harland’s living room.
Music accompanied the audience as individuals and groups we were shown to their pre-arranged seats and after a drink and lots of hugs, smiles and nods, and the opportunity to purchase 50/50 tickets, servers brought out the first part of a meal that included a garden salad and eye-catching plates of prime rib catered by Full Throttle Event Solutions.
Soon, the servers took away the plates, the lights went off and the play began.
Rachel Ann (Tanya Riabko), a student, entered the stage obviously upset that she had been “stood up” by Bobby. Her mother and two other middle-aged women, each with her own unsuccessful history with men, met in Connie’s living room for another regular evening of cards; this time without Mary, the fourth who had recently died.
Although Connie (Ellen Amundsen-Case), Rachel Ann’s mother, seemed the most grounded of the group, she soon revealed an unhappy married life of long ago. The character of Leona, (Maureen Humeniuk), burst onto the stage, portraying a not-quite-desperate woman who, in spite of too many nips and tucks, is still eager to excite her libido. They were joined by Millie (Karen Koreluik), charming and sweet, but being a bit ditsy, is often the object of their jokes. She had just broken into the funeral home to bring Mary’s ashes to the card game. She also brought the threat of a visit from the police.
The police arrive in the person of Adrien Hovrisko, who brings with him a ghetto blaster blasting “B-B-B-Bad to the bone” raunchy music. He is dressed in cap, sunglasses and a police uniform that that soon rips away with a tug, revealing that he’s a stripper. He gyrates seductively across the stage, hops onto the coffee table, lap dances, flirts and seduces his way among the three women who, fortified by a well-stocked bar, squeal delightedly.
Of course, we learn that the stripper is Bobby, who had skipped the date with Rachel Ann for this stripping gig he had accepted to help pay for his education. Departed friend Mary had hired him to encourage her friends to follow their dreams, see the world, have fun and “exit laughing.”
As an actor, Hovrisko always lights up a stage while bringing his characters to life. He’s done it in many previous Players’ productions and does it again, in Exit Laughing, enabling the audience to laugh and hoot along with the three women on stage. He was also able to bring a tear to the eye as he talked about their departed friend and her wishes for them all.
Many of the play’s best laughs come from the interplay among the women and their expressions of shock, humour and pathos. Shock turned to laughter as Millie described her school days when she had a reputation as being a good kisser. The audience cared when Connie, a would-be movie star, explained how her only screen credit was for being little more than an “extra,” and we all cringed with laughter watching the cast painstakingly switch Mary’s ashes, scoop by scoop, with used cat litter.
Although Riabko and Amundsen-Case have been in previous Players’ shows, as their ease under the lights revealed, this marked the first time on stage for Humeniuk and Koreluik, both of whom were equal to the veterans and demonstrated how, with lots of work and a bit of passion, community theatre creates a satisfying experience for both, those on stage and in the audience.
Back to the graph of entertainment: for many in the audience this community theatre experience easily ranks with the best entertainment one can experience.
For this production, the Players introduced their newest technology which is individual headset equipment that allow for words, even whispered on stage, to be easily heard in every corner of the hall.
The play was directed by Jack Koreluik, who also looked after the design and building of the set as well as the lighting and sound design. Nancy Brunt was the assistant director; Tyler Filipchuk, lighting and sound assistant; Cyndal Gibb, makeup artistry; Shelley Filipchuk, dinner co-ordinator, and Odaria Moline and Nicole Larson were in charge of advertising sales.
Rather than letting Exit Laughing immediately fade into Players’ history, members of the theatre troupe have decided to pack their makeup, costumes and sets and haul them to Roblin in March so they can re-stage the play in that community, which is home to Amundsen-Case.
“We will be staging the production on March 8 and 9 at the Roblin Memorial Community Hall,” said Koreluik, (director.) “Tickets are on sale now and may be obtained by contacting any member of the Drama club.”
Everyone else is left to eagerly look forward to their next productions.