Laddy Sartin’s Catfish Moon, a charming down-home Southern comedy making its Triangle premiere at Raleigh Little Theatre, hooked the Sunday-matinee audience almost immediately, with its heady blend of rustic comedy and romance — and one of the funniest love Triangles ever.
The show is set on a sloping, rickety lakefront dock (cleverly constructed by RLT scenic and lighting designer Rick Young, with a nice panoramic view of the deep woods that surrounds this isolated spot). Located just off one of those “blue highways” that snake through rural North Carolina, the deteriorating fishing pier has a number rotten planks, but the local yokels still use it for fishing, picnicking, a boat dock, and the occasional low-rent rendezvous. Guys with their Christian names embroidered on the pockets of their work shirts — and the good old girls who love them, despite everything — tie up their boats at this pier.
Costume designer Sue Brace expertly dresses the show’s colorful characters in work clothes, play clothes, and Sunday-go-to-meeting finery like the blue-collar working men and woman that they are; and Rick Young skillfully manipulates his lighting instruments to emulate the changing light of afternoon, dusk, nighttime, and sunrise in the deep woods.
Tony Hefner is hilarious as Gordon, a bashful roly-poly beau who seeks dating advice from the Horoscope Hotline; and Staci Sabarsky is terrific as Betty, the recently divorced wife of one of Gordon’s best friends. Hefner and Sabarsky are the epitome of a good old boy and good old girl in love, fumbling, bumbling, and stumbling toward intimacy; but the skunk at their little romantic garden party out at the lake is Frog (Ryan Stevens), Betty’s irate ex-husband who just cannot believe that his best friend is courting his former bride.
Stevens is delightful as Betty’s pugnacious ex who will never, never, never let her go; but David Wilk is a bit too nonchalant, too prosaic in the pivotal role of Curley, devoted brother to Betty, bosom buddy to Frog and Gordon, and a local wheeler-dealer who is trying to get the bickering Gordon and Frog to call a truce long enough for the three men to come together to buy their favorite fishing pier from a recent widower who is willing to make them a real deal on the property.
RLT guest director Rod Rich, who regularly turns quaint comedies into laff riots for Actors Comedy Lab, gets gritty performances from this game quartet of actors. Catfish Moon is not as complicated or as clever as the off-the-wall comedies that Rich usually whips into comic soufflés, but Laddy Sartin’s script touches the audience’s heart as well as its funny-bone and is thoroughly entertaining to boot.
Raleigh Little Theatre presents Catfish Moon Wednesday-Saturday, April 13-16 and 20-23, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, April 17 and 24, at 3 p.m. on RLT’s Cantey V. Sutton Main Stage, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $14 Wednesday, $18 Thursday/Sunday, and $20 Friday-Saturday, except $12 Sunday for students and seniors. 919/821-3111 or online, via RLT's site. Note 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive listening devices are available for all shows. Note 2: The April 24th performance will be American Sign Language interpreted by Sam Parker and JoAnn Miller-Kinsey. Raleigh Little Theatre: http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/catfish.htm [inactive 4/06].
Raleigh Little Theatre will present the Triangle premiere of Catfish Moon by University of Southern Mississippi alumnus Laddy Sartin April 8-24 on its Cantey V. Sutton Main Stage. When this Southern-fried comedy had its professional debut in 1996 at the Charlotte Repertory Theatre, The Charlotte Observer described it as “full of the most bodacious joviality…. [T]he ending is pure delight, comic writing as sweet as it comes.”
“I really love the characters in Catfish Moon — three small-town Southern men,” confesses RLT guest director Rod Rich, who co-founded Raleigh, NC-based Actors Comedy Lab in 1998 with his wife, Nancy, and Jack and Bunny Safron co-founded.
“I grew up in Candler, NC, a little country spot just outside of Asheville,” Rich says, “and I knew people like this — they went to my church, they went hunting and fishing with my brother, and they’d play poker with my father. Catfish Moon seems familiar to me. I wanted to direct it partly to honor some of those good ol’ boys I knew growing up, and partly to have the opportunity to work with the creative professionals at RLT again.”
Rich says, “I [also] rather like the theme of the play as well: second chances.”
When the curtain rises, says Rich, “Three childhood buddies, Curley (David Wilk), Gordon (Tony Hefner), and Frog (Ryan Stevens), are now in their 40s; and the years have been rough on their friendship. Curley has gotten tied down with his business, and Gordon and the hot-tempered Frog have an ongoing feud about virtually everything, most recently over Frog’s ex-wife Betty (Staci Saborsky), who’s been seen around town with Gordon. In the midst of a crisis of his own, Curley determines to resolve the disputes and recapture their old friendship by taking the boys fishing under the magical catfish moon.”
In addition to director Rod Rich, who shares sound-design duties with Rowell Gormon and Tony Hefner, the show’s creative team includes RLT set and lighting designer Rick Young and costume designer Sue Brace.
In staging Catfish Moon, Rich says, “The most important thing is to make sure the cast works together as a team to bring life to the relationships between the characters. I’ve been fortunate to find a cast that handle this challenge — as well as the creative technical crew to create the amazing dockside environment that makes up the setting for the play.”
Rich says, “The set consists of an old pier leading down to a raked dock which hangs over the RLT orchestra pit. Behind the set is a projection screen used to help evoke the outside environment by establishing time of day, weather, and general ambiance.”
In describing the show’s lighting, Rich notes, “Any stage play that takes place outdoors has to make the audience forget they’re sitting in a comfortable theater, and believe that they’re watching a play outside under the stars. The lighting challenges for Catfish Moon are fairly intricate: the play takes place in early afternoon, during sunset, and in the middle of the night, each of which has its own look and effects associated with it.”
Rich points out that the easiest creative challenge to meet was the show’s costume requirements. He describes the cast’s wardrobe as “standard-issue small-town wear, complete with caps with logos and work shirts with the names of characters sewn onto patches,” Rich points out.
Raleigh Little Theatre presents Catfish Moon Friday-Saturday, April 8-9, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, April 10, at 3 p.m.; Wednesday-Saturday, April 13-16 and 20-23, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, April 17 and 24, at 3 p.m. on RLT’s Cantey V. Sutton Main Stage, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $14 Wednesday, $18 Thursday/Sunday, and $20 Friday-Saturday, except $12 Sunday for students and seniors. 919/821-3111 or online, via RLT's site. Note 1: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive listening devices are available for all shows. Note 2: The April 10th performance will be audio described. Raleigh Little Theatre: http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/catfish.htm [inactive 4/06].