Runs until April 21
The Citadel Theatre
9828 101A Ave. NW
Tickets: Start at $30: call 780-425-1820 or online at tickets.citadeltheatre.com
Billionaire Jebediah (Butch) Buchanan’s birthday party acts as the setting of the Citadel’s latest production, The Party. The play is somewhat of an interactive experience, with audience members sitting at party tables as opposed to theatre seats.
The Party is the prequel to The Candidate. Both plays are performed by the same cast of actors in tandem with the actors running from the Maclab Theatre to The Club to deliver their lines. Both plays are meticulously timed to ensure the actors will arrive on stage at the correct moment. However, there was the occasional second an actor was left without a scene partner, forced to improvise while their fellow actors made the journey.
The connected plays were written by Kat Sandler, The Party being the story of how the candidate of the Left party was chosen. The Candidate, narratively, takes place months later, the night before the major election.
“The Candidate and The Party are part art, part math and a whole lot of luck …” said artistic director Daryl Cloran.
The Left party candidates vying for the attention of Buchanan (Glenn Nelson) are Heather Straughan (Martha Burns), akin to Hillary Clinton, and Bill Biszy (Jesse Lipscombe,) the star of popular action movie franchise Shark Man.
The Party provides surprising turns, allowing for each of the actors to interact within the setting of the party, despite their seemingly separate storylines.
A stand-out performance was delivered by Colleen Wheeler, who plays Heather Straughan’s campaign manager Pauline Abel. Abel is forced to work with young aide Dill Pickerel, expertly played by St. Albert Children’s Theatre alum Luc Tellier. Abel’s tough, commanding persona contrasts brilliantly with Pickerel’s nervous, desperate-to-please energy.
Trouble ensues when Heather Straughan meets Buchanan’s wife, Vidashka. A former Olympic ice dancer, Vidashka had an affair with Cole Straughan, reminiscent of Bill Clinton. Vidashka makes references throughout the production to Soretria, her terrifying home country. Cole and Vidashka make for another great comedic pairing, as their attempts to support their spouses fail miserably.
Soo Biszy, adopted daughter of Bill Biszy and his partner Marky, is the typical, angsty teen. Played by former St. Albert Children’s Theatre actress Cynthia Jimenez-Hicks, Soo and Pickerel become an unlikely couple as she rebels against her father’s campaign.
With a combination of mature humour and unexpected twists, The Party offers an introduction into the world of The Candidate, while remaining an entertaining stand-alone production in its own right.
The Citadel Theatre
Runs until April 21
9828 101A Ave. NW
Tickets: Start at $30: call (780) 425-1820 or online at tickets.citadeltheatre.com
The Candidate, written in conjunction with The Party by Kat Sandler, tells the story of the candidates the night before the big election.
Bill Biszy, an action movie actor of Shark Man fame, won the candidacy of the Left party, despite his non-existent political experience. He is running for the position of Chief Leader against the Right party candidate Woodruff Buchanan (Glenn Nelson), twin brother of billionaire Butch Buchanan, who funds the Left party.
The play begins with a debate between Woodruff and Biszy. Woodruff is a Trump-like character whose campaign slogan claims the country is: “good the way it is.” Biszy, whose campaign is simply a list of buzz-words including “hope” and “truth,” enlists the help of Heather Straughan and her political experience to ensure the Left party’s win.
When Woodruff questions Biszy’s ability to lead due to his sexuality, a larger debate ensues about religion and family, in which Biszy lets it slip he doesn’t believe in God.
The rest of the play sees Straughan, Biszy, campaign manager Pauline Abel, and her trusty aide, Dill Pickerel, scramble to repair the damage in the few hours before the election.
Amber Lewis, who plays Butch’s wife Vidashka, had to utilize her improvisational skills when her scene partner failed to make the journey to the Maclab from the Club on time. She interacted with the audience, practising her interview skills as Vidashka intends to become a “serious journalist.”
The two-hour production provides hilarious twists and turns, with over-the-top characters such as Marky Wright, (Thom Allison) partner of Biszy, and daughter Soo Biszy (Cynthia Jimenez-Hicks) struggling to conform to the wholesome, family image Abel desperately wants them to fit.
Iffy Abernathy (Rachel Bowron) is a Shark Man super fan, who disguises herself as a nun in an attempt to get closer to Biszy. Abel and Pickerel, played by St. Albert Children’s Theatre alum Luc Tellier and Colleen Wheeler, are forced to include her in their plot. Once again, Tellier and Wheeler’s characters contrasted brilliantly, and offered many big laughs.
The production used the Maclab Theatre space exceptionally, at one point even utilizing the cable system above the audience, having Biszy descend from the ceiling in full Shark Man apparel.
The Candidate offered costume changes and a more intricate set than The Party and since the characters had been introduced in the previous show, The Candidate was able to provide bigger laughs and higher stakes.
Ultimately, both The Party and The Candidate are expertly executed by the cast and crew. However, if you are only able to see one show, I would highly recommend the latter.