PRESCOTT – One thing is certain: The cast of “Sin, Sex and the CIA” knows how to have fun. And audiences are sure to too when the Great River Road Theatre group takes the stage for …
PRESCOTT – One thing is certain: The cast of “Sin, Sex and the CIA” knows how to have fun. And audiences are sure to too when the Great River Road Theatre group takes the stage for its winter dinner theatre in February.
“Sin, Sex and the CIA” by Michael Parker and Susan Parker, tells the hilarious story of a bumbling Barney Fife-esque CIA agent on his first job. According to Director and GRRT found Judy Johnson, Agent Luke James has been assigned to guard a safe house in the Virginia mountains, the site of a secret meeting between the U.S. government and a representative of the Chagos Aisles, where huge oil reserves have been discovered. OPEC is trying to stop the meeting because they want the Aisles to join the cartel instead of working with the U.S.
According to the play’s synopsis, no one at the meeting, arranged by a U.S. under secretary of state Margaret Johnson, knows who the Aisles’ real representative is. James is an “eager beaver” on his first assignment who manages to mess up practically everything he touches.
“He gets caught in all his own booby traps, manages to electrocute himself, sets himself on fire, gets a bucket stuck on his head, and if that isn’t enough, he finally locks himself in his own handcuffs,” the book states.
To complicate matters, ex-Marine Daniel Warren is replacing the regular safehouse caretaker and he becomes the target of Johnson’s overactive libido. Added into the fray is The Reverend Samuel Abernathe, “a hell and damnation evangelist who finds sin around every corner, even when there isn’t any.” He is thrown into the group when his car breaks down nearby and he’s stranded at the cabin, along with his dowdy secretary. And as if that’s not enough, sexy neighbor Heather Ann Faraday joins the crew at the cabin because her power went out in a storm and she needs a place to stay.
The cast is as follows:
Scott Halverson – ex-Marine Daniel Warren
Mark Andrle – CIA Agent Luke James
Krista Christiansen – Millicent the Innocent
Aaron Denn – The Reverend Samuel Abernathe
Missy Kowalchyk – Heather Ann Faraday
Rebecca Denn – Margaret Johnson
Marie-Anne Haudegand-Deiss – Ranger Dawn
Judy Johnson – Director
Ken Roen – Jack of all Trades
Meet the cast
Ken Roen, who helps in any way needed at GRRT productions, has lived in the Prescott area since 1955. After graduating from River Falls High School, he taught a class of 17 at a country school in 1952. When he was invited to teach in Prescott, he had 30 kids in one classroom.
“Ken and I are good friends,” Johnson said. “We do a lot of things together.”
They met when Roen auditioned for “Harvey The Rabbit.” A friend, John, painted a picture of him as the rabbit, which he still has to this day. One of his most memorable GRRT moments brought a smile to his face.
“I sang in the quartet the first time we did ‘The Music Man,’” Roen recalled. “That was really special. I can always think back to that play. Having plays outside was such a community thing. It was so much fun.
“The people in the play this year, they’ve really gone beyond themselves. They are just outstanding.
Halverson, a retired educator, has lived in Prescott for 30 years. He starred in his first GRRT production in 1995 when he was still teaching. He took a break until 2006, then tried it again in 2015.
“I had to convince Scott he was such a crowd pleaser,” Johnson said.
Halverson said acting is fun, but a whole lot of work. Two plays come to mind as his favorites.
“One was ‘Oklahoma,’ that was a wonderful experience,” he said. “I just remember being in heavy wool suits and it was so, so hot out. My suit went from light to dark gray. And another one I really enjoyed was where I played a nun in ‘Lie, Cheat and Genuflect.’
“One of the things that I enjoy is when you’re acting, you’re playing a part that is completely different than who you are. You can just kind of let it go and come back to normal. Doing things that are out of your comfort zone.”
Kowalchyk grew up in Hager City and has lives near Ellsworth for almost 30 years. Her daughters were involved in theatre, which drew her in.
“They did a couple of productions in the summer when it was still outside of the old junior high,” Kowalchyk said. “This is my third production for the dinner theatre. As a mom, it’s been so fun watching my daughters be in productions. It’s neat to see how theater can help our kids find their people.”
Kowalchyk said the people she performs with keep her coming back.
“Do I really want to try to learn all these lines?” she joked. “But it’s because of who is here. It’s the people.”
Johnson, who founded the GRRT over 30 years ago, grew up in the rural Prescott area. She and husband Gary owned a bakery downtown. She keeps theatre memorabilia throughout her house and outbuildings.
“One thing that I keep in my shed because it’s such a happy memory, it’s agate, a piece of a fence that we had in this one play when we were outdoors in the park,” Johnson said. “One gal couldn’t remember her lines or the words to the song and she had all of her lines written on the slats of the boards.”
Andrle has lived in the River Falls area his entire life. He’s been a part of the GRRT for about 18 years. He and Johnson are distant cousins.
His favorite production was “Clue.” Johnson credits him for “saving my life in Clue. I was so stressed out and he had these wonderful ideas and it all just kind of worked out.”
“It was a blast,” Andrle laughed. “It’s always kind of a bet of who’s going to end up in their underwear in these things.”
Becky & Aaron Denn
The married couple have lived in Prescott for 25 years. Becky tagged along with her son, who starred in “Alibis.” She’d always wanted to try acting and here she is 10 years later, still loving it. She said playing Margaret Johnson is fun for her because she’s so different from past characters.
“She’s a little bit of a hussy, a maneater,” Becky said.
Aaron, who’s a newbie to GRRT (he’s performed in one other show), embraces playing the radical Bible-thumping evangelist preacher. His castmates say he’s been a quick study and in fact, steals the show.
Christiansen has lived in Prescott her entire life. She began her tenure with GRRT 20 years ago in 2004.
“I think It was actually because I started doing drama in high school when I was a freshman,” Christiansen said. “And my mom happened to see an ad in the newspaper when I was 15 or 16.”
She said the group has performed so many fun shows that it’s hard for her to choose a favorite. She especially enjoyed playing one of Cinderella’s evil stepsisters while wearing a big, poofy dress.
“One of the kids had gotten stuck in one my skirts,” she said. “I was shaking my dress to get this 5-year-old out of the dress.”
This show, though it has a risqué title, is not even PG rated, Andrle said. Johnson said while the title is provocative, the show is a hilarious comedy.
“We would never put on anything that would be seen as objectionable,” Johnson said. “There are a lot of accidents that just end up in compromising situations. The name is very misleading. I just would not let anything go that stage that was that bad.”
Kowalchyk likened the comedic style to Carol Burnett skits.
“You can take them a certain way and there was a lot of stuff they did on that show,” she said. “Suggestion is most of it.”
“Don’t take your life so seriously,” Andrle said. “We certainly don’t.”
The dinner show will take place Feb. 2-4 and 9-11 at The Old Ptacek’s Event Center in Prescott. Friday and Saturday night dinners will include ham, champagne chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, salad, buns, and dessert. Seating begins at 5 p.m., dinner is at 6 p.m., followed by the 7 p.m. show.
“Pasta Sundays” are matinees with doors opening at 11:30 a.m., lunch at noon and the show at 1 p.m. That meal includes lasagna, fettucine Alfredo, green beans, lettuce salad, buns and dessert.
Tickets, available online only at www.ptaceksiga.com, are $40. Take your sweetheart out for a fun Valentine’s date.
You can follow Great River Road Theatre on Facebook.