Neither hail, lightning nor hurricane-like winds could stop the Caravan from rolling with its latest outdoor theatrical experience.
Although the July 26 opening of Caravan Farm Theatre’s The Notorious Right Robert and His Robber Bride went without a hitch, reports came in the next day about the pulse storm that hit Armstrong-Spallumcheen, practically flooding the area in its wrath.
But as they say in the business, the show must go on. And Caravan did – without power, no less – and so it came in handy that two vintage cars used in the production were able to light things up, literally, with the use of their headlights.
The ingenious ways of Caravan’s always talented cast and crew shone through, and it does with this show, written by Sean Dixon, with dramaturge by Vicki Stroitch, and directed by Caravan’s artistic director Courtenay Dobbie.
With the “soundtrack” played by a live band, led by Salmon Arm native Herald Nix, whose rhythmic guitar work and smooth tones set us in a country-kind of mood, the play is as fast-paced as the cars that zip on by, and as strong in character as the Clydesdales and their handlers who deliver the set pieces – again ingenious.
The play is also a heck of a lot of fun. It’s Bonnie and Clyde set in wildwoods B.C., with some fantastic secondary characters setting up the story and the props, thanks most in part to the lanky, hardworking sheriff/narrator Julius Tallhammer.
Addressing the audience, and then easing naturally into his Andy Griffith-like role, Calgary actor Christopher Hunt does a superb job of keeping up with the quick pace, literally hanging up props while talking (not an easy feat) and improvising with his natural wit when the horses took a little longer than expected delivering the goods.
Tallhammer leads us into the story following the travails of the titular title character, Right Robert Popoff (played with pep and vigor by Toronto’s Greg Gale), who with his more level-headed older brother, Blue Jay (a sound performance by Vancouver actor Darren Dolynski), has been living a life of crime.
Dressed in their “work” clothes, ‘30s finery of fedoras, pinstripes and suspendered trousers (a shout-out to costumer Christine Reimer for making the men look as dazzling as their smiles), they cause havoc in their hometown of Chickabiddy and surrounds, with equally entertaining names that sound rather familiar.
On one job they hold up the local pawn shop, and almost meet their maker in the likes of the martial arts expert shopkeeper (the expressively talented Elinor Holt, who plays multiple roles in the show, including Mary Scrapes whose storyline becomes more apparent near the end of the play).
Enter Jenny Lundy (Georgina Beaty, a master of forlorn looks who rocks a slightly southern accent for reasons unknown). She wants to sell her mother’s ring for some quick cash. The girl is so desperate, she dines on squirrel for supper, but she has a dream of becoming a reporter. God knows why, but at least the girl wants to deliver more meaningful news than the local rag that calls itself a newspaper. (Hmmm, I wonder which paper she could be referring to?!)
Her words so impress Right Robert that he literally sweeps her off her feet – in the coolest getaway scene, thanks to one of the aforementioned vintage cars.
Blue Jay, in the meantime, ain’t too happy about his brother hooking up with another dame, but he has respect for Jenny, as it turns out, she can kick a…, well, like a donkey! She’s tough thanks to her hardscrabble life.
As the three plan to hit their biggest target yet, British Columbia Provincial Police continue on their tail. And dragging his with a whip of an ego is Bull Withers (played with baritoned bravado by Bruce Horak), whose love of firearms and the “chase” makes up for his lack of a plan…. or brains.
All these characters culminate in a bang-up ending, where not everyone ends up as expected – this is a dirty and dusty western, after all. But if John Wayne was still alive, I’m sure he’d say Caravan shows true grit in staging a play that not only entertains in spades, but can even handle Mother Nature and all her wily ways.
You’d be amiss to miss this one.
The Notorious Right Robert and His Robber Bride continues at Caravan Farm Theatre nightly, rain or shine, at 7:30 p.m. (except Mondays) until Aug. 26. To reserve, call or visit the Ticket Seller at 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.