I recently spent an evening in Ontario’s lake country with some of odd, yet kind-hearted folk, that were all in a tizzy over a peculiar fishing derby they hold annually.
At least it felt like I was in Ontario. In fact, I was at the Lacombe Golf and Country Club where the Cow Patti Theatre Company’s latest production — The Great Kooshog Lake Hollis McCauley Fishing Derby — is transporting audiences across the country into funny, charming, light-hearted and thoroughly entertaining experience.
The production, penned by Canadian legendary playwright Norm Foster and director by a veteran of Cow Patti Donnie Bowes, is ostensibly a well a recognizable story of a hot-shot city boy stranded in the great unknown of rural Canada — but the familiar story is brought alive by the thoughtful dialogue of Foster and the impeccably acting chops of the Cow Patti cast.
The story’s main focus is on a budding romance between Melanie Morningstar, played Ali McKay, and James Bell, played by Liam Collins. Both Collins and McKay are also veterans of Cow Patti and it is clearly evident why Cow Patti “Head Cow” AnnaMarie Lea would want to bring them in again.
Their chemistry between the two on stage is light, fun and palpable. Bell expertly crafts the image of a Toronto scenester looking to rise to the top as an uptown businessman , which is perfectly counterbalanced by McKay’s portrayal of a country girl who understands the simple pleasures of country life in Kooshog Lake.
The banter created by Foster between the two characters is believable and the development of the relationship between Melanie and James is one of the great joys of this play.
Perhaps the linchpin of Foster’s work is Sienna, played by Cow Patti veteran Linda Goranson. Sienna’s Grocery is the central location of the play and Sienna herself is the common connection between everyone in Kooshog Lake. Goranson’s character provides sage wisdom to everyone on set, while also delivering some of the best laughs in the entire production.
Sienna’s character is also perfectly crafted together with both Lea’s character Rhonda and Brian Young’s Kirk Douglas, intentionally named after Spartacus himself.
Sienna’s light-hearted flirting with Kirk Douglas and her motherly advice for the free-spirited Rhonda Bortkowski are some of the best set-pieces in the production and also show Foster’s arcane ability to fully develop every character who steps on to the stage.
While I won’t spoil the end, it clearly can be said that the plot of The Great Kooshog Lake Hollis McCauley Fishing Derby pulls you in from start to finish and the dialogue of this comedy keeps the laughs coming throughout.
Cow Patti’s succeeds in making the audience laugh, smile, giggle and even tear up a tiny bit, before bringing you in for another expertly crafted laugh.
As always, the food, drinks and atmosphere created at the clubhouse by Cow Patti’s entire cast and staff are a unique experience that delivers above and beyond what you would expect at metropolitan dinner theatre and The Great Kooshog Lake Hollis McCauley Fishing Derby is a must-see heading into the Christmas season.
The Great Kooshog Lake Hollis McCauley Fishing Derby runs from Nov 8 until Dec. 15 at the Lacombe Golf and Country Club. More information and tickets can be found at www.cowpatti.com.