On Stage

Peaches en Regalia

When a bar is not a bar

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

As I settled onto a stool to view Bellingham TheatreWorks’ opening night production of Peaches en Regalia last weekend, I couldn’t help but feel I’d entered an alternate dimension.

That’s because in addition to the raucous Underground Nightclub transforming into a respectable theater for a couple of hours every Friday and Saturday night for the duration of the show, the setting of the first act of the play is Bellingham’s iconic Horseshoe Cafe.

To make things even more surreal, if you go the actual Horseshoe Cafe during the run of Peaches en Regalia, you can order the eponymous dish—a strange-sounding mix of iceberg lettuce, cottage cheese and canned peaches sprinkled with paprika and topped with a cherry that playwright Steve Lyons claims was a favorite at church socials when he was a kid.

I’d figured out where I was in the space/time continuum by the time the lights dimmed and the show started, and by then I’d realized the simple truth that being able to sip on a vodka with cranberry juice while watching a play was a boon (note to theatergoers under the age of 21: Sorry, but you’re out of luck).

The show begins with an engaging monologue by Peaches (Cessa Betancourt), a former Bank of America employee and Western Washington University student who soon reveals she’s left her bank job to waitress at the Horseshoe.

Soon enough, the audience is also introduced to an under-confident fellow named Norman (Mario Orallo-Molinaro), the flow-chart-making, angora-sweater-wearing Joanna (Cass Murphy), and Syd (Zach Wymore), a bearded guy who seems to have his shit together.

How the four characters lives are impacted by each other and intersect over the following years is at the heart of Peaches en Regalia.

The first act is comprised of their comings and goings at the Horseshoe Cafe, but by the second act they’ve grown up a little and face different time-management issues than they did when they were meeting cute at the eatery, including marriage and kids and what it truly means to make connections.

Director Mark Kuntz was the one who initially suggested that Lyon’s original one-act play—which premiered at the Fritz Blitz Festival in San Diego and went on to be performed in London, Edinburgh, New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and beyond—be rewritten into a two-act play and set at a local establishment. That bet paid off, as part of the fun of the viewing the comedic Peaches in Regalia was connecting the setting with the venue. 

Of course, casting is everything and the four actors Kuntz and Lyons selected to make the story come alive—all of whom have studied theater at Western Washington University at one point or another—brought their A games to the stage.

Lyons had warned me that the flower shop above the Underground had a compressor that caused some noise issues first noticed at the dress rehearsal, and I did notice its incessant hum. But the actors didn’t let on, and their voices were strong enough to drown out the sound. Sure, we were in a bar, but you’d never have known it.

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