Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Wally's Cafe"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2002 by Tony Annicone

"Wally's Cafe"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The closing show of Community Players 81st season is the gag filled comedy, "Wally's Cafe". This three character play is about a New Jersey couple who open a diner in the California desert near Las Vegas in 1940 and their first customer from Illinois who wants to become a Hollywood actress. The show is done in two acts with three scenes, following their exploits in 1958 and 1981. The show gets progressively funnier after the opening exposition especially the hilarious last scene with the couple as the old folks leaving their desert cafe. Director Don Gillis casts these three roles beautifully and his three performers sustain your interest from start to finish with their talented portrayals.

Not only does Don direct this show wonderfully, his concept for the set is outstanding, too. Victor Turenne's set design and construction of a gigantic hamburger hovering over the entire stage is an excellent visual effect with applause as its reward when the curtain opens at the beginning of the show. (The graphic painting of the burger is by John Ricci.) The other great effect is the jukebox which is used throughout the evening. The menu board is another humorous touch when you see the hamburger price increase from 1940 to 1958 to 1981. The costumes by Pam Jackson reflect the time changes and work in giving the characters the right feel for the eras. Stage manager Eric Desnoyers keeps the show moving especially in the scene change, with his mom, Laura as his assistant. The lighting design by Rob Ferland and the lighting and sound execution by Andrew Bobola Jr. is an added bonus to this well done production. This is Don's first non-musical project and he does a great job, too.

The bickering but loving couple from Jersey, Wally and Louise, is played by Robert C. Reynolds and Kim Alessandro. They both capture the flavor of the newcomers from the East coast in the first scene. Kim's Jersey accent is hilarious and Robert's energy at owning his first business in the middle of nowhere is splendid. They grow more comfortable with each other in the second scene where they are old hands at the restaurant business, but have strayed from each other during the years. (The matching royal blue outfits are a great touch.) It is in the last scene where their acting is the most humorous. Robert as the forgetful old man, exiting the stage and wondering what he was supposed to be doing, is fantastic as is Kim's reactions to him while she wears a matronly pantsuit. She has a husky sounding voice, like Kathleen Turner, making her one liners count all night long. Robert and Kim play the perfect couple who have their highs and lows during their lives but handle the situations that meet them with ease, showing their talent in these enormous roles.

The final member of this trio is Erin Mahan as Janet, the would be starlet. She plays an airhead bimbo with little singing and dancing talent in the first scene. (Her singing and dancing to "Red Robin" is a hoot.) In the next scene, she wears a blond wig and we find out what has happened to her during this time. (She shoots her cheating husband in the family jewels and lets us know about her Hollywood days and Wally, Louise and her affairs, too.) Janet returns in the second act to bring good news to her friends at the cafe, bringing the show to a delightful and happy ending. (To give details of the actual happenings would spoil the show for the audience, so I have given a briefer description than usual.) Erin handles her three separate scenes very well and all the actors handle the age transitions beautifully. So for a thought provoking look at a married couple done comically with a third party added into the mix to stir things up, go see "Wally's Cafe". You won't be disappointed.

"Wally's Cafe" (till 23 June)
Jenks Jr. High Auditorium, Division Street, PAWTUCKET, RHODE ISLAND
1 (401) 726-6860

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide