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Politics meets melodrama in ‘Peril of the Polls’

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Catalina Diaz
Staff Writer

With American flags in hand, the audience was eager to either hiss at the cape-wearing villain or cheer on the heroes and heroines at the “Peril of the Polls,” which opened Sept. 15.

The production was part of the San Gabriel Valley Repertory Theatre’s Dining Dramatically series.

The room, filled with campaign props and the smell of herbs and spices from the kitchen, housed an intimate crowd.

“Everybody leaves the theater with a smile on their face,” said Carolyn Bushnell, administrative director of SGVRT.

“Peril of the Polls” is a melodrama equipped with a cast that brings their expertise in comedy, passion and evil to the stage.

The funny and plot-twisting Gov. Wally Wessel (Glenn Miller) is running for re-election, with his wife Daisy, (Azo Safo) and charming daughter Mina (Malorie Felt) by his side. With the campaign working in Wessel’s favor, his bodyguard and fellow hero, State Trooper Dwayne Cooper (Aditya Joshi) has his eye on the governor, and maybe the governor’s daughter, too.

The show would not be complete without inviting audience participation. “Yay’s” and “Ahh’s” were heard whenever the hero and heroine, played by Mina, entered the room. Miniature American flags were also instructed to be waved as the governor entered.

Opposite of the light-hearted and joyful Wessel and his family was the villainous Hugh Beast (Nicholas M. Passell). Alongside the black-caped Beast was the Sen. Neddy Neinerniener (Lisa Wisong Miller), who accompanied Beast with the plot to weasel Wessel out of the governor’s race.

The performance was hosted by Shaun Hade.

Hisses filled the room whenever Beast made his presence to the crowd. The audience snickered at his pun-intended lines that were often repeated.

“My favorite part of the show was the recurring jokes and general happy, light atmosphere,” said Jeremy Jenewein, 29, of Pomona. “I am curious to see what other shows they have to offer.”

Accompanying the comical show was a three-course dinner catered by Mari’s Kitchen in Covina, which was also at the show venue.

Audience members were started off with a fresh caprese salad appetizer and beverages of their choice. They were also given their choice of chicken pesto, steak sirloin or a vegetarian option, all accompanied with Cuban beans and rice pilaf.

The next two showings will be held at different venues with other menu choices.

The SGVRT is one of only three dining theater groups in Southern California that still specializes in melodrama, Bushnell said. Deciding on this theme was quite purposeful.

“It’s difficult to have something new and different,” she added.

“Peril of the Polls” will return to the stage Saturday and Sunday at the Oak Tree Room in Arcadia, and on Sept. 29 and 30 at the Glendora Continental in Glendora. For more information and tickets, visit sgvrt.com/schedule.

Catalina Diaz can be reached at catalina.diaz@laverne.edu.

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