Sunday, December 11 , 2016, 3:06 am | Mostly Cloudy 57º


Review: Circle Bar B’s ‘Any Wednesday’ a Weekend Must-See

Romantic comedy set in the mid-1960s serves as a fitting season finale

Any Wednesday by Muriel Resnik was a huge hit on Broadway in 1964. Jane Fonda starred in the 1966 film version as Ellen, the heroine facing upheaval to her comfortable but unfulfilling life on her 30th birthday. While the Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre production is billed as intoxicating and uplifting, like champagne or balloons, darker undertones provide some contrast and depth.

The production runs through Nov. 4, with performances Friday and Saturday nights, plus Sunday matinees. Click here for tickets and information.

Local stage veteran Miller James directs, and though the material seems a bit dated today, the universality of human experience provides common ground. Jealousy, infatuation, disappointment, compassion, longing for security — we all know what these feel like.

As John Cleeves, Robert Demetriou is dashing in his blue sharkskin suit — very Mad Men. John is a powerful businessman but a low-key character, choosing his words carefully and letting the action unfold around him as he navigates the waters, always with his own best interests at heart. In this production, Demetriou returns to the CBB stage for the first time since 1991.

Leesa Beck is Ellen, John’s mistress, tucked away in an apartment he keeps in the company’s name as a tax write-off, visiting her there every Wednesday. She is bubbly and animated, and desperately wants John more than one day a week, but of course he resists upsetting his life’s balance. Beck, last seen on the CBB stage in last year’s Bullshot Crummond, brings plenty of energy and charm to the role.

In the role of Cass Henderson, the brash salesman with a heart of gold who stumbles onto John and Ellen’s little arrangement, Christopher Lee Short hits it out of the park. A sharp, funny comic actor, he appeared last year in CBB’s It Runs in the Family and has been seen in Out of the Box Theatre productions, notably as The Propietor in Assassins, among others.

Kathy Marden is another gem, with a fantastic comic touch and timing. As Dorothy Cleeves, the wife who is the last to know, she does a beautiful job with the character’s rambling stream-of-thought monologues. As in CBB’s Regrets Only over the summer, Marden has a way of embracing this type of character who, despite their trappings of wealth and propensity for drinking plentifully, escape being caricatures and instead retain their humanity.

The set, by William York Hyde and co-producer David Couch, is a delightfully over-the-top depiction of a whimsical young woman’s apartment in the mid-1960s, with all the requisite pastel colors and cutesy knick-knacks. Co-producer Susie Couch provides her own comic relief between acts, clowning for the audience as she re-sets props and such in classic Circle Bar B fashion.

This is your last chance to enjoy this unique local theater experience, including a delicious barbecued dinner, before Circle Bar B goes into hibernation for the winter. Like the bear, they will not emerge until spring, so get out and enjoy it now while you have the opportunity.

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

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