Wednesday, December 7 , 2016, 9:32 pm | Fair 48º


Review: Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre’s ‘Ghost of a Chance’ Is Haunting and Hilarious

Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre is known for its high-quality productions of light theater, as well as its delicious tri-tip dinners. On my recent trip up the coast for its spring offering, I found the ante has been upped on both counts.

A new chef has subtly adjusted the traditional menu, replacing the already tasty mashed potatoes with a sublime cheesy mashed potato bake and using a marinade for the grilled chicken that leaves it moist and flavorful.

The play Ghost of a Chance, directed by Brian Harwell, offers all the best of what you expect from this intrepid little theater, now in its 40th season.

By Flip Kobler and Cindy Marcus, a husband-and-wife team who wrote scripts for many animated Disney films, this play is more a comedy of situation than one of manners. Its metaphysical element — the ghost in the title — adds a different dimension, but the comic performances we love are all there, and Harwell has done a superb job of exploring all the facets of the characters to make them as real and human as possible — even the ghost.

Tiffany Story, Santa Barbara’s queen bee of comedy, has a role that seems tailor-made for her — Crystal, the flaky psychic. Every flip of her hand or lift of her brow fleshes out the character just that much more, so that within moments, she is not only inhabiting the character but pushing past her edges, emanating an aura of hilarity. She truly steals the show.

In the role of the ghost who doesn’t believe in himself, Matthew Cooper is excellent. With his impeccable comic timing and full commitment to the physicality the role requires, he is a joy to watch, and his love/hate chemistry with Story is palpable.

Allison Threadgold and Sean O’Shea are solid as Bethany and Floyd, the couple trying to start a new life together, and Threadgold does a good job of portraying the angst her character feels, pulled between two men she cares for.

As Verna, Kathy Marden plays the meddling mother role to the hilt, but with sweet moments of poignancy as she cradles and converses with the urn holding her late husband’s ashes. Mike Wondolowski is the hapless would-be buyer of Bethany’s family cabin, and rounds out the cast well.

This swells to a more emotional climax than most other productions at Circle Bar B, but without being cheesy or maudlin. This reviewer, admittedly soft of heart to begin with, shed more than a few tears.

There are three more weekends to catch this excellent production, running through May 18, so take the chance to see it while you can. Tickets and information are available by clicking here.

— Justine Sutton is a Santa Barbara freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer. The opinions expressed are her own.

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