ERCT holiday tale more funny than merry starts this weekend at Little Theatre

Uncle Leo and Aunt Rose, played by Denny Chuba and Gretch Nordman, get into another spat at the dinner table, as Bunny (Sandra McAllister) listens. (Photos by Bruce Strand)

Uncle Leo and Aunt Rose, played by Denny Chuba and Gretch Nordman, get into another spat at the dinner table, as Bunny (Sandra McAllister) listens. (Photos by Bruce Strand)

 

by Bruce Strand, Arts Editor

In their roles as a constantly sparring married couple, Denny Chuba and Gretch Nordman get to deliver many of the laugh lines in the Elk River Community Theatre play starting this weekend.

Chuba, asked if he’s had plenty of practice at home, said certainly not.

“Oh, no. I have such a wonderful wife that we never argue,” he claimed. “It is indeed a challenge for me to act this way.”

Mr. Douglas (Russ Branjord) chats with a nosy neighbor (Jodi Rehlander).

Mr. Douglas (Russ Branjord) chats with a nosy neighbor (Jodi Rehlander).

He added, with a gleam: “Make sure you print that.”

Chuba and Nordman play a pair of 80-year-olds in the Christmas comedy “In-Laws, Outlaws, and Other People (That Should be Shot).” The play opens Friday, Nov. 29, at 7:30 p.m. and continues Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. with the same schedule Dec. 6-7-8.

Nordman teased, “We have a significant age difference” in real life.

Cousins xxxxx (Shelby Swenson) and Beth (Emily Bowersox) react to the strange doings on Christmas eve.

Emily (Shelby Swenson) and Beth (Emily Bowersox) react to the strange doings in the house on Christmas eve.

ERCT is just the fourth community theater to present this play, written in 2012 by Steve Franco, of Virginia. The local theater’s board found the script too funny to resist, even though it’s not well-known.

This is opening weekend, and the run of six performances concludes next weekend.

It’s the story of two guys who have run afoul of the law, Tony and Vinnie, played by Paul Olson and Jon Rehlander, who interrupt a Christmas eve gathering of an extended family that winds up driving Tony nuts, especially the bickering Uncle Leo and Aunt Rose.

“He never listens to me,” complains Rose. “He always daydreams about Marlene Dietrich.”

“Mar-LAYNE-ah,” he interjects. “And he gets this LOOK on his face,” she sneers.

“And, of course, she thinks I didn’t used to have lunch with Irving Berlin every day,” he huffs. “And, I absolutely did.”

“Uncle Leo imagines things,” she counters.

It’s good, clean fun, though. As Nordman noted, there’s “no (bad) language at all in this play. It’s definitely a family show.”

Chuba, longtime local businessman (custom building), has acted in local plays since 1978.

Nordman said she started in high school at Owatonna and got back into theater as an adult. She moved to Elk River with her husband five years ago.

Tony (Paul Olson) tries to put sassy teen Beth in her place, while partner Vinnie (Jon Rehlander) listens.

Tony (Paul Olson) tries to put sassy teen Beth (Emily Bowersox) in her place, while partner Vinnie (Jon Rehlander) listens.

 

“I love being on stage. I’ve always been a ham,” said Nordman, who also hosted a local TV show in Owatonna for four years.

The cast also includes Russ Branjord as Mr. Douglas, who is hosting the dinner, Emily Bowersox as his daughter Beth and Laurie Olson as his wife; Sandra McAllister and Bill Bade as Bunny and Bud, their in-laws, and Elizabeth Budahn as their daughter Tracy; Blair Budahn as Beth’s spacey boyfriend Paul, and Shelby Swenson and Jen Mueller as his sister and mother; Jodi Rehlander as neighbor Mrs. Draper and Shahn Dilks as a policeman.

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