BY KALISHA MENDONSA
Cow Patti Theatre’s upcoming production, Wally’s Café, is going to be a special one for a number of reasons.
Not only is Cow Patti celebrating their 20th season of performance, but also celebrating Canada’s 150th year as a nation by welcoming Canadian actors to share a heartwarming story and supporting community efforts through their benefit program.
Opening night of Wally’s Café will be raising funds to benefit the St. Andrews Friends of Guatemala group. Tickets for the Feb. 9th prime rib dinner opening show are $70 plus tax. Performances of Wally’s Café will run from Feb. 9th through to Mar. 5th at the Lacombe Golf & Country Club, on ‘Slider’ Wednesday evenings ($29), Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights ($70, includes prime rib dinner) and Saturday and Sunday brunches ($60 regular, $50 for seniors).
Other community groups involved in the benefit show program include Lacombe Comp’s Connected Leaders ASLC, Kasota East Camp, Lacombe Knights of Columbus, A Better World, Rocky Seniors and GramaLinks Africa. In the first half of the 2016-2017 season, Cow Patti helped to raise $18,924 for many deserving community groups.
Canadian director Donnie Bowes will be joining the ‘herd’ from Ontario in addition to Cow Patti producer AnnaMarie Lea, and returning Cow Patti favourites Susan Greenfield and Jamie Williams. Bowes said he is excited to be returning to Lacombe to direct the show, one that he says is heartwarming, funny and a pleasure to perform.
“We did this how about five or six years ago and when you come back to a show like this a number of years later, you get to remember how much fun you had and what a great show it is to work on,” Bowes said, his excitement palpable in his voice.
He said it’s been fun preparing for the play and being able to re-live the enjoyment in the story of Wally’s Café.
The show takes place over a span of several decades, following a friendship formed between two café owners, Wally and Louise, played by Jamie Williams and Susan Greenfield, respectively, and a Hollywood hopeful, Jeanette, played by Lacombe’s own AnnaMarie Lea.
The actors are challenged to play their characters through 40 years of “friendship, dreams, heartaches and serving up the ‘Wally Burger’ in a small café outside of Las Vegas. Lea says as an actor, the play is a welcomed challenge and the cast is ready to bring the story to life.
“The play spans over four decades. The characters start in their 20s, then are in their fourties and then into their seventies. It’s a real exercise for the actors, taking yourself through fourty years of your life physically, emotionally and mentally. As far as the script itself, we don’t have to work hard to carry it. It is heartwarming and funny and is placed in a great environment,” she said.
For this performance, Bowes said he is excited to work with this set of actors, two of whom have worked with him on the same production in the past. Williams is taking on the role of Wally for the first time, and Bowes said the mixture of familiar faces and new talents is going to be a delight to audiences.
“Every time you do a show, it’s different, even if the actors have done it before. You’ll do a scene and see or think of something you haven’t done before, and it’s more fun,” Bowes said.
“When we add in an actor who is new to the play, but we have worked with before, Jamie Williams, he can add an entirely new insight to the character of Wally and that will change it up for us, and anyone who has seen the play before.”
Bowes said the tale is what he defines as a great situational comedy. He said it’s one his favourite art forms, and he is looking forward to bringing this style and calibre of play to Lacombe.
“When you think about the great situational comedies that have lived on – The Bob Newhart Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Seinfeld – they all have the same things in common. Wonderful and memorable characters, great comedy and they always draw an audience into a very entertaining situation that also can be quite serious. It could be something serious or deals with an issue that truly resonates with the audience,” Bowes said.
Bowes added that although there are no tragedies to be found in Wally’s Café, the play resonates with the audience by playing on a familiar theme of dreaming – and the realization that not all dreams come true as they were intended.
“The audience in this case is treated to the the characters in three different times of their lives and how they live and adapt with changing dreams,” he explained.
“What touches you emotionally is how this show deals with dreams – how they can sometimes let you down and how you have to keep kicking. In this particular situational comedy, there are great laughs but it is also very touching. It deals with people on their road to success and how that road can often be very rocky.”
“It truly is a show that just has everything you’d want.”