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Panych’s “Shoplifters” to round out CCT theatre season

The play follows Alma, a spunky shoplifter whose slippery fingers can’t resist temptation
Emily Bohmer, left, Bob McCue, Brad McCue and Brenda Burley rehearse their lines for The Shoplifters, a play that will debut in Cranbrook on April 28 (photo courtesy of Michelle McCue)

Cranbrook Community Theatre’s upcoming production, “The Shoplifters,” has a plot line that has lived inside Michelle McCue’s head for years.

The play centres around Alma, a spunky shoplifter whose slippery fingers can’t resist the the temptation of free goods. Alma (Brenda Burley), teaches her protégé Phyllis (Emily Bohmer) how to master the art of deception, but the lessons go awry when a grocery store security guard spots a steak falling out from one of their skirts.

“[Alma is a] sassy 60-ish woman who has this whole thing down pat. She’s got it all figured out, but she’s not just shoplifting for herself. She definitely has a little business going,” said McCue.

“[Phyllis] she doesn’t feel the same way about life that Alma does. Alma feels like she’s not getting her fair share. Phyllis is happy with a few little niceties.”

Directed by McCue and produced by Landon Elliott, the play concludes Cranbrook Community Theatre’s 2022-23 season. It debuts on April 28 at Studio Stage Door and runs for nine performances, with evening shows on April 29, May 4-6 and May 10-13, and a matinee on May 7.

It is the work of Canadian playwright Morris Panych, a professional who has directed over 90 productions across Canada and whose work has been translated into a dozen languages. Among his many notable works are The Trespassers (2009), Vigil (1995) and Girl in a Goldfish Bowl (2002).

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McCue first read “The Shoplifters” in 2018 after borrowing the script from a friend. She was captured by the play’s dual nature as a comedy and as an examination of complex social issues.

“It’s a fantastic comedy, but there is social commentary as well, kind of around the price of groceries and what would compel someone to shoplift,” she explained.

“There’s some slapstick. It’s just modern relatable humour.”

In 2019, she and a few friends went to see the play while visiting in Vancouver and this sold her on the idea of showing it locally.

“I thought, ‘what a good play this would be for Cranbrook’ because it can be a very intimate set with an intimate audience like we have at Stage Door. I thought, ‘I’m going to hold on to this idea.’”

Her aspirations were put on hold for a few years because she couldn’t get the rights for the play from Panych’s company Talonbooks. At the time, it wasn’t releasing the script to amateur groups.

McCue said the opportunity to present the play in Cranbrook couldn’t have come at a better time, as the narrative parallels economic issues that currently impact Canadians. The play serves a social commentary on inflation and rising food prices.

“My hope is people come away from this and kind of look at the prices in the grocery stores and think ‘well it’s expensive for me, how do people who live on assistance ever afford to buy groceries?’ I hope it compels people to think about donating more regularly to our local food bank. It’s really important.”

“The Shoplifters” also features Bob McCue and Brad McCue.

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About the Author: Gillian Francis

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