Empress Theatre gets lucky

by Matthew Wheeler


McBride’s 104 year old Empress Theatre (now the Elks Hall) got Luckyville last weekend. The life-and-death drama by that name attracted audiences to five performances in the Robson Valley in recent weeks.

The mysterious, highly skilled bodyguard, Bruno played by Monica Zieper. /SYDNEY PHILPOTT

Written by Sharon Stearns and performed by a talented and seasoned cast of Wishbone Theatre, Luckyville exposed some tough soul-searching.

After a long absence, Delia returns to Luckyville with a lot of money in her purse and revenge on her mind. She has come to offer half of her $100M lottery win to the village, plus ten million each to the friends of her estranged husband, Larry.

The catch? It is payable only if Larry is found dead within seven days. The play opens with an anxious little girl, Angelica, sitting in an imaginary car wreck, chatting with Tammy, an elderly angel. Clutching her doll, Angelica is unwilling to leave the fatal scene and “cross over.”

Next scene, the rotating stage brings around Luckyville railway station, where everyone is a-twitter with news of Delia’s imminent return to town with her winnings. Even Larry is excited, ready to meet her with a bouquet of flowers, although he is now with Joyce, who is manager of the bank and mayor of the village.

Things take a grim turn after a train is heard puffing into the station, and through a cloud of steam, Delia and her otherworldly bodyguard, Bruno, emerge. Delia announces the gifts. . . and the requisite death of Larry. It turns out she blames him for the accident that killed their daughter years ago, although she admits she still has love for him, sort of–”It has grown into a dark twisted thing.”

The ensuing agonies and arguments of conscience and justice that Delia has unleashed on the village play out in the following scenes, producing a lot of laughs and some uncomfortable silences in the audience.

The drama is interspersed with music, dance, and more efforts by Tammy to coach Angelica in skills needed for “crossing over.” Twists and turns are added when a supernatural audio replays events in the car that led to the crash, revealing contributions made by Delia and Larry as well as their daughter to the tragedy.

Larry is unsure which friends to trust and is scared to death. He saves anyone who might have been been tempted to “help him out” by succumbing to a heart attack on the station platform.

In a way, Larry and his daughter get the last laugh with the final scene, blissfully reunited and released from limbo.

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