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CCT’s latest play takes us inside the mind of a shoplifter

“The Shoplifters” debuts April 28 at Studio Stage Door
Emily Bohmer, Bob McCue, Brad McCue, Brenda Burley (from left to right), feature in Cranbrook Community Theatre’s presentation of “The Shoplifters,’ directed by Michelle McCue, at the Studio Stage Door. (Barry Coulter photo)

There’s a moral compass in all of us, but the direction it guides us in varies between people. A crime to one person is a necessity of life for another.

Cranbrook Community Theatre’s latest production, The Shoplifters, debuting April 28, uses dark comedy and sarcastic humour to investigate what compels people to steal and whether thievery can ever be justified.

The play opens with Alma, a middle aged woman with sticky fingers, who is detained in a storage room of a grocery store for attempting to shoplift a juicy steak. Sitting in the dingy room, surrounded by boxes stacked to the ceiling, Alma is questioned by an overly eager young security guard Dom, who is hell-bent on having her admit to a crime in order to make a big impression on his first day on the job.

As the plot progresses, Alma is joined in the storage room by her protege Phyllis, who was caught alongside Alma when they attempted to sneak out of the grocery store with meat hidden under their skirts. Dom, frustrated that he cannot extract a confession from Alma, seeks the help of senior security guard Otto, who is brought into the interrogation.

Slowly, the characters begin to divulge their motivations and desires, and reveal their outlook on life. It becomes possible to see beyond Alma and Phyllis’s pesky pilfering. They emerge as two flawed individuals who are doing what they can to navigate life’s complicated path.

For Alma, played by Brenda Burley, stealing is a necessary form of survival — something that she must engage in in order to get her fare share. She is a disgruntled woman, who feels that life hasn’t given her what she deserves, so she steals in order to assuage her wounded psyche.

Phyllis, played by Emily Bohmer, is a 30-something woman, who turns to shoplifting in order to add excitement and adventure to her mundane life. Inside, she knows stealing is wrong and feels guilty for what she has done, but the rush of adrenaline pushes her to reach for one more item on the shelf.

Dom, played by Brad McCue, is a devout Christian who believes stealing is a sin. Extracting a confession from the women is not only about upholding his own moral code, but also about helping the women find God. He struggles to find common ground with the two women, who see life very differently from him. Phyllis is an atheist and Alma is happy to skew religion to justify her bad habits.

Otto, played by Bob McCue, is torn between upholding the law and sympathizing with the women. While he understands that he must follow company policy, deep down inside he believes the women are simply doing what they can to survive. He wants them to see the error in their ways, but he also thinks the issues of the world are greater than an item of food disappearing from the shelf.

Not everything is as it seems, however

Is Alma’s name really Sandra?

Is Phyllis a vegetarian?

Could Alma have cancer?

Does Phyllis really suffer from peripheral edema?

Could they be hiding more than just steak?

The women weave a tangled web of tales as they are interrogated, leaving audience members wondering which version of their story is correct.


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About the Author: Gillian Francis

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