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Help yourself to an evening of laughs

St. Albert Dinner Theatre celebrates 10th anniversary with Self-Help
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Shelby Murray, Rob Beeston, and Priscilla Dhaussy experience the liberating effects of discovering their personal potential in Self-Help, St. Albert Dinner Theatre's new production running at Kinsmen Banquet Hall. ANNA BOROWIECKI/Photo

REVIEW 

Self-Help 

Runs until Nov. 27 

St. Albert Dinner Theatre 

Kinsmen Banquet Hall, 47 Riel Drive 

Tickets: $55 to $60 Call 780-222-0102 or online at www.stalberttheatre.com 

There’s a stiff in the study. A reporter is digging around for an exposé. A twitchy French maid is whipping up a pot of creamed corn in the kitchen while self-help gurus Hal and Cindy Savage haven’t had sex in a year. 

Toss in a smart-mouthed agent with the mind of a piranha, a goof-ball detective asking questions about a blackmailing gigolo, and the situation is ripe for a five-alarm farce. 

But let’s backtrack and get a quick overview of Norm Foster’s play Self-Help now playing at St. Albert Dinner Theatre until Saturday, Nov. 27. 

Cindy and Hal are idealist thespians and second-rate actors slogging in third-rate shows with actors they can’t stand. Tired of hauling their belongings in a battered suitcase and driving a rusted car, they want their share of the money pie. 

While reading a self-help book on the last night of a show, they stumble on the next chapter of their lives — self-help promoters ready to unlock the personal potential of unsuspecting individuals. As actors, they have all the persuasive skills of self-help practitioners and none of the scruples. Within seven years they’ve parlayed their phony concepts and vapid banter into mega dollars and a $3-million house. 

While their bank account has witnessed a steady rise, the magic is gone, and their sex life has drooped (pun intended.) And yes, there are a lot of erectile jokes and one-liners in the play. They start coming in fast and furious after Hal comes home early one day and discovers Cindy cuddled with the gardener in a compromising position. Hal’s scream causes the gardener to have a heart attack and die on the spot still maintaining a large erection. 

Now to get rid of the body. This awkward sexual situation turns into a modern-day version of the Keystone Cops. It is, after all, a farce with all the expected subterfuge, door-slamming, and misunderstandings. 

Under Sturart L. McGowan’s direction, the cast is tightly knit, and he keeps the comedic pace crackling along. Rob Beeston as Hal and Shelby Murray are perfectly paired and deliver a chemistry that works for this Foster play. 

Beeston’s Hal is big, bold, and reminds one of a shark scouting its prey. Instead, Murray's Cindy is only a slightly softer version of Hal but is quicker to realize the hole they’ve dug themselves into is unsustainable. 

Joanne Poplett’s Ruby Delvecchio, the unscrupulous agent hot on the market for a man, and Tim Kubasek as the downcast Detective Snow, whose romantic life is in the trash compacter, together trigger more than few laughs. 

Colin Stewart as Jeremy Cash is an arrogant, presumptuous reporter, the guy you love to hate. And finally, Priscilla Dhaussy's French maid is the surprise element, a timid woman who grows into a feminist force that strikes a blow for blue collar workers. 

While some of the sex jokes become repetitive, the laughs are in the right places. And the cast and crew are at their best in this two-hour comedy that beats with a naughty spirit. 


Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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