Vertigo Mystery Theatre’s latest production gets audiences laughing

Laughter is heard amongst the war of 1943 in Calgary’s Vertigo Mystery Theatre production of “When Girls Collide.”

A glimpse of what life could have been like for the women of this era is portrayed in a detective’s office and a wealthy, retired sailor’s home.

In a cast of all women, Karen Johnson-Diamond plays Helen Thorne; Laura Parken, an award-winning actress, plays Martine Salamanca; and Vanessa Sabourin plays Cookie Valdez. These three ladies act together in Stewart Lemoine’s play.

What attracts Parken to acting is how she gets to step into another character’s shoes, as she said she understands people better.

“It’s an incredible feeling to try on a new character and go into another world,” she said. “A sense of empathy is key for any actor.”

Although Parken certainly makes acting look easy, she said she faces challenges.

“It’s fun and it’s difficult. It’s about timing and making a joke work,” Parken said. “The character and the comedy have to come from something quite real and not just a gag.”

Even though Parken is nothing like the character she plays, she has no problem acting the part.

“It’s fun to play in this role, but I could never be that way. Some of the things she does are absolutely horrible,” Parken said.

Behind the scenes

Terri Gillis is the production and facility manager of Vertigo Mystery Theatre and has done a realistic job of making the stage look as though it had been pulled right out of American history.

The play spans over two different sets; a detective’s office reminiscent of classic film noir, as well as a living room fit for a sailor with blue and white décor. Laura Parken – Laura Parken plays as Martine Salamanca onstage in the play, “When Girls Collide.”
Photo courtesy of: Benjamin Laird Arts and Photo

Gillis has been designing sets for 26 years and said she wants the audience to leave thinking about the play and how good it was overall.

Director Trevor Rueger said he places himself in the audience to ensure that the set looks magnificent.

Rueger started his career in live theatre 15 years ago, and said that even though things don’t always go the way he originally planned, they always turn out much better.

“In every collaborative process everyone brings something different to the table,” Rueger said. “You have to be open to all possibilities.”

Being a director, he has to stand in as the audience and ask himself if he can understand the story — if it’s fun and enjoyable and if he can believe the characters.

When asked what he wants the audience to see, he replied, “I want them to see three very talented comedic actresses in a play written for three very talented comedic actresses,” Rueger said. “It’s meant to be funny and I want them to have a good time.”

Ginny Schultz, a retired special-education teacher, said that she has seen many plays and generally likes to sit quite close to the stage.

“I like to see the actors’ faces because I think it’s different for them every time they perform, and I like to see their reactions,” Schultz said. “Usually there’s a few things that happen in the play that aren’t expected for the performers and I like to see how they deal with that.”

Ben Villett, another audience member, said “It’s interesting that there are so few people, but it’s a full production. It’s pretty cool how they still make a full show out of it.”

Vertigo Mystery Theatre will be hosting “When Girls Collide” from Jan. 21 – Feb. 19, 2012. Tickets can be purchased at the box office or online at www.vertigotheatre.com.

jhan@cjournal.ca