Playgoers of Lethbridge production of “One For The Pot” is carefully orchestrated chaos


What happens when you throw a plethora of puns,  a miasma of mistaken identites and misunderstandings,  a large cast and lot of lines, several distinct accents into a pot and mix it together in five weeks? Complete chaos? Not at all, you get Playgoers of Lethbridge’s latest dinner theatre — Ray Cooney and Tony Hilton’s hilarious British farce “One For The Pot,” a dinner theatre taking place at the Sandman Inn this week beginning tonight.


Don Berner, Andrea Vaxvick, Donna Kalau and Josh Hammerstedt rehearse a scene. Photo by Richard Amery

 And even though I’m in the play, albeit for a brief scene, so brief you could miss me if you blink, it afforded me the opportunity to join a handful of audience members at our final dress rehearsal, Monday night and marvel at how well and professionally it has come together in a really short time.


And while there were a few miscues and missed pages of script, which is to be expected at a dress rehearsal, the cast covered them professionally.


The cast has meshed like they have been performing together for five months or more instead of five weeks.

 Especially Chris McCue, who has admirably embraced the challenge of memorizing most of the the play, performing four of the main characters, all with different accents and basically has to appear in three different places simultaneously.

“The biggest challenge is not just knowing the lines, but knowing who I am supposed to be at any particular moment,” said McCue, who was in the Playgoers of Lethbridge production of “The Mousetrap” in February.

“I did the Mousetrap and it was such a great experience, I thought I would give it another shot, but the fact I was playing four characters came as a shock,” he continued, describing his main character Billy as “daft but lovable.”


“He’s a north country man. He’s a little bit daft and can’t add two and two together, but he is such a sweet character,” McCue continued. He also plays Billy’s upper crust twin brother Rupert as well as their devious Irish twin Michael and a surprise at the end.

McCue’s counterpart, Charlie Barnet, is played by a brash Mark McCue, who tries to keep all of the unfolding chaos he has created under control.

Don BErner and Andrea Vaxvick rehearse. Photo by Richard Amery

“I had this play in my collection of plays and enjoyed the comedic aspects of it and some of the challenges involved,” said director Elaine Jagielski, who had to put the play together in five weeks — a task made a lot easier by an excellent cast.

“It’s coming together really well,” Jagielski continued adding the biggest challenge of directing  the play  was assembling the large 11 person cast.


 The cast includes a variety of Playgoers of Lethbridge veterans and some new faces.

“I decided I wanted to get involved with theatre,” said Andrea Vaxvick, who makes her stage debut as Cynthia, the youngest daughter of Hardcastle.


She also admirably plays the ingénue — Cynthia, the youngest  daughter of Hardcastle with wide eyed innocent wonder as if it comes naturally.

Don Berner, who is back for his  fourth Playgoers of Lethbridge performance, is looking forward to playing Hardcastle.


“He’s a cranky old fellow, but he’s got a good heart,” Berner said , whose character’s decision to give “a pot of money” — 10,000 pounds to Billy Hickory-Wood, the son of  Hardcastle’s former partner in his mill providing he is the only living relative,  provides the catalyst for a cavalcade of comedy involving crazy characters, mistaken identities, misunderstandings, eavesdropping, art,  a dash of Monty Python-esque drag, a lot of slapstick and random chaos on stage.


“And, like all the others, it’s been quite an experience. You meet a lot of new people and it’s always a new challenge,” Berner continued.


 The entire cast gets a physical workout as there is a lot of rushing around to do, doors to slam, dances to perform, an oddly placed drunken bullfight and carefully orchestrated mayhem to control. 

Jugg, played by another Mousetrap veteran, Andrew Merrigan is devious, droll and hilarious as he grins mischievously as tries to squeeze Barnet  for every pound possible to make his scam work.


The entire casts gets a physical workout as there is a lot of rushing around to do, doors to slam, dances to perform and carefully orchestrated mayhem to control.


Jugg, played by Andrew Merrigan, anotAriel  McLeod rehearses a scene from One For The Pot. Photo by Richard Ameryher Mousetrap veteran, is devious, droll and hilarious as he grins mischievously and tries to squeeze Barnet  for as many pounds as possible, keeping all the secret identies secret from Hardcastle.

“I’m nervous for opening night. The day I’m not nervous for opening night, is the day I quit,” Berner continued.


“It’s really been fun acting, learning the lines and getting over the fear of being up there,” Vaxvick continued adding she is enjoying playing Cynthia, whose character is celebrating her birthday surrounded by eccentric artistic types and being wooed by a couple suitors when all of the action happens. 


“ The biggest surprise is  there is so much to think about. You have to interact with the other characters. It is not just about memorizing  a bunch of lines. It is about having the confidence to get up there and deliver them,” she continued, adding she is excited about opening night. 

They are backed by a capable supporting cast of straight players including Donna Kalau as Amy Hardcastle, and an impressive debut from newcomer Ariel McLeod as Winnie, Billy’s histrionic wife.


Newcomer Daniel Kearns also does a capable job as Clifton Weaver, a young art critic and one of Cynthia’s suitors.


Josh Hammerstedt as Hardcastle’s quirky lawyer Arnold Piper is also a highlight. 

But personally, I think the guy who plays Stanley and his motor-mouthed wife Jennifer (played by Leisa Paltiel)  steal the show in their scene. ( Sorry, I couldn’t resist that considering that’s my scene.)

All of the action takes place on a beautifully crafted and painted set.


“Now that it is starting to come together, I’m looking forward to opening night. I think it is going to be great,” Craig McCue concluded.

The show begins with cocktails at  6:30 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m., followed by the show.


The play runs Oct. 19-22. Tickets are $45 for which you receive a full catered dinner and  an entertaining show which lasts a solid 90 minutes.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor

A version of this article also appears in the Lethbridge Sun Times, Oct. 20 edition

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