Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Wally' Cafe"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2006 by Tony Annicone

"Wally's Cafe"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Theatre Works 91st production of their 23rd 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 middle of a desert in California near Las Vegas in 1940 and their first customer from Quincy, Illinois who wants to become a Hollywood actress. The show is done is three acts, following their exploits in 1958 and 1981. The show gets progressively funnier after the opening exposition with each character having their funniest moments in each different scene. The last scene is hilarious where you find the couple as old folks leaving their diner in the desert. Director Don Gillis casts these 3 roles perfectly and they bring an abundance of energy and talent to this show.

Don blocks the show wonderfully and keeps the pace moving all night long. Don Luther built the realistic diner setting with bright colors while stage manager, Bert Cayer changes the decor of the diner for each scene as well as the price of the Wally burger on the menu board. The costumes are by Denise Luther and the lighting and sound is by Chris Cournoyer and Brett L'Heureux.

A word of praise to Joe Casey who restructured the Butterflies Are Free set into this one and to John Ricci for the graphics on the jukebox and the outdoor cactus. The producer for this show is Evelyn Zifcak who founded the group in 1983.

The bickering but loving couple from New Jersey, Wally and Louise are played by Ed Benjamin III and Kim Alessandro. Ed captures the essence of this young man wanting to make good in the middle of nowhere with his mother's stringy pot roast recipe and the Wally burger which is made with 2 pickles, mustard, ketchup and a piece of cabbage. Kim's, Louise hates the desert locale and wants to return to the snow and cold of the east coast. The second scene shows that they are old hands at the restaurant business even though it still isn't as successful as it could be because it is set too far back from the road. The couple strays from each other during the years with Louise topping Wally's affairs three to two. Ed has some hilarious moments in this scene with the confession of the affairs and his description of a man getting shot in the balls but it is the last scene where he plays the befuddled old man that is a hoot with him entering in and out and forgetting what he's supposed to do. Kim is excellent in all the scenes, getting many laughs while threatening to leave Wally in the second act but her best scene is the final one where she plays a much older woman. She captures the voice, mannerisms and walking pattern beautifully. Both Ed and Kim portray this couple perfectly, capturing the highs and lows during their which shows off their talent in these enormous roles.

The final member of this trio, Laura Ash, only had 8 rehearsals to learn her part of Janet, the would be starlet. She almost steals the show with her Betty Boop voice and off key singing of "When The Red, Red Robin" as she sings and dances for Wally and Louise. She reminds you of Lena Lamont from "Singing in the Rain" movie. In the next scene, Janet returns from Hollywood after shooting her faithless husband in the balls and becomes a waitress in the diner and in the last scene she returns to pay back her old friends for their kindness throughout the years. Laura does a tremendous job in this role and brings the right comic touches to pull it off splendidly. (To say anymore about what happens will spoil the show for the audience.) So for a fun filled evening of topnotch comic acting, be sure to catch "Wally's Cafe" before time runs out.

"Wally's Cafe" (24 February - 5 March)
78 Earle Street, WOONSOCKET RI
1 (401)766-1898

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide