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Thursday, January 17 , 2019, 6:13 pm | Fog/Mist 59º

 
 
 
 

Review: Speaking of Stories Delivers ‘Nothing But Laughs’

Another evening of entertaining storytelling is planned for 7 p.m. Monday

Speaking of Stories provides something most of us don’t experience much as adults — the opportunity to sit back and let someone read us a story. This unique performance series features actors, both homegrown and from farther afield, reading short stories by a variety of authors.

SOS, founded by Steven Gilbar and directed by Maggie Mixsell, launched its 17th season Sunday afternoon, with a second performance set for 7 p.m. Monday. This is the series’ second season at Center Stage Theater, and while the elegance of the Lobero Theatre was fitting, the intimacy of this space perhaps affords the audience a richer experience. The smaller capacity requires two showings for each performance, resulting in more versatility for audience members.

This show’s theme, traditionally so for the first of the season, is “Nothing But Laughs.” Unusual here, though, is that all five stories presented are by the same author — Canadian Stuart McLean, a broadcaster, humorist and author who is best known for his radio program, The Vinyl Café. Sort of a Canadian Garrison Keillor, McLean writes and tells stories about Dave, who owns “the world’s smallest record store,” and his family and neighbors.

Santa Barbara actor, writer and teacher Jon Koons read “Christmas at the Turlington’s,” a comedy of errors about Dave’s neighbors, Bert and Mary, and the Christmas dinner he and his family is invited to at their house. As the first to read, he had the honor of introducing McLean’s deliciously cringe-inducing style of humor to those audience members not familiar with his work.

“The Hairdresser,” read by talented local actor Dan Gunther, was the brilliantly crafted story of a misunderstanding as Dave overhears his wife, Morley, telling a friend about her desire to “try someone new.” Gunther gave great life to the story by skillfully denoting each character with accents and attitudes, and was a delight to listen to.

“Teeth” detailed the difficulties of elderly neighbor Eugene with his dentures and was read with great aplomb by seasoned stage actor Rudy Willrich.

The only woman in the lineup, longtime local actor Cali Rae Turner, gamely read “The Jockstrap,” the tale of Morley’s efforts to purchase this equipment in time for her son’s first hockey practice. This was Turners first time with SOS, and I hope she returns for more.

Emmy-winning actor Jay Thomas, an SOS regular, closed the show with a stellar reading of “The Phone Message,” in which Dave blunders through a classic tale of attempting to right a wrong and not get caught. Thomas’ extensive experience was evident as he took the audience along on this wild ride.

During the intermission, the audience was offered beverages and chocolate chip cookies, home-baked — along with gorgeous mini-cupcakes — by SOS Executive Director Teri Ball.

Even for grownups, what better way to round out a session of stories than with milk and cookies?

Click here for tickets and more information.

— Justine Sutton of Santa Barbara is a freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer.

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