Dinner Theater Coming to Chinook


March 13, 2019

Traveling dinner theatre with Montana Actors' Theater (MAT) is back-with five separate weekend performances in four different communities, including Chinook. Area residents are invited to join MAT for dinner at 6:00 p.m. followed by the hilarious insanity of The 39 Steps on March 22 and 23 at the Eagles Club located at 305 Indiana Street in Chinook.

Based on an original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon and reminiscent of the book by John Buchan which was adapted for theater by Patrick Barlow, The 39 Steps is also a theatrical riff on Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 film. The basic plot involves Richard Hannay, a man living a mostly monotonous life, who meets Annabella Schmidt, a woman with a foreign accent who claims she's a spy. When Hannay takes her home, she is murdered. Soon, a mysterious organization called The 39 Steps is hot on Hannay's trail in a manhunt that climaxes in a death-defying finale.

Directed by Casey Pratt, a fifteen-year veteran with MAT, the four actors of this zany play must create a world of danger and mystery-at breakneck speed-while playing multiple roles with limited set pieces and without the usual technicians that audiences have come to expect in theater.

According to Pratt, the show is a Hitchcock masterpiece combined with a juicy spy thriller. "It's a fast-paced spoof that demands tremendous flexibility and versatility from the small cast who must transition from one character to sometimes three or four in the moment and without an off-stage costume change," Pratt said.

As far as principle characters are concerned, Grant Olson has been cast in the role of the hero, Richard Hannay. Morgaine Evans-Lomayesva will portray the three female roles: Annabella Schmidt, Pamela, and Margaret; and TC Knutson and Barry Brownlee will play Man #1 and Man #2.

However, the show will demand astounding talent from this cast of four who will be required to shift identities in order to embody four to six characters within the same seconds-long fraction of a scene, tossing props and costumes with juggler-like precision as they capture the play's multiple zany characters. From the onstage plane crash to handcuffs, mishaps, and some good old-fashioned romance, this is a whodunit for anyone who loves the magic of theatre or a play packed with nonstop laughs.

"One of the things that makes this show so hilarious is that we are producing it as if it's serious," Pratt said. "Everything will happen fast, with limited set pieces, and in the absence of stage technicians, for the most part. We'll be working with minimal resources for maximum effect," he added.

According to MAT founder and Artistic Director, Jay Pyette, this will be the third year of bringing a show to Chinook: Black Comedy in 2017, Rugburns in 2018, and The 39 Steps in 2019.

On the dinner side of the theater experience, Ashley Liddle will supervise the preparation of the meal served, and she promises, "It will be delicious!" The menu will include a dinner salad, rolls, Chicken Lomardy, mashed baked potatoes, seasoned green beans, and brownie cheesecake for dessert.

Liddle will prepare the Chicken Lombardy using chicken breasts baked in a marsala sauce with green onions, mushrooms, and mozzarella cheese. "This is an incredibly juicy and savory way to serve chicken," she explained.

A staple in most chef's kitchens, marsala wine is a fortified wine made in Sicily. It is most commonly used to create nutty, rich caramelized sauces.

Dinner theater tickets, which are priced for individuals or for a reserved table, are available on the MAT website (http://mtactors.com/) and at the Eagles Club in Chinook. Corporate sponsorships are also available, which come with a table for eight as well as advertising. For more information on this event, interested persons can call Pyette at 945-0272.

With its elastic characters and inventive stagecraft, The 39 Steps promises an unforgettable evening that celebrates the art of instant illusion-making that is theater.


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