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Coffee shop comedy goes over easy

Magic Circle Theatre’s production of ‘Wally’s Cafe’ funny, endearing
By: Eileen Wilson Special to The Press-Tribune
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Come spend an evening at “Wally’s Café,” Magic Circle’s production of the play set in a small diner in the 1940s. The restaurant, which is too far off the road, on a route that divides the Mojave Desert, is shaped like a giant hamburger. Unfortunately for Wally and Louise, a compelling building isn’t enough to steal business from Burney’s, the popular café across the road. The play, a comedy written in the ’80s by Sam Bobrick and Ron Clark, is knee-slapping funny at times, but it’s much more than a mere lark. What lies beneath the quick comebacks and witty wrangling is a husband and wife with high hopes for a successful café and the promise of a fulfilling life, both of which cause them much disappointment. Wally and Louise aren’t the only ones with a dream. Enter Janet, a girl hitchhiking her way to Hollywood for her shot at stardom. Arriving at the café on the eve before they’re open for business, Janet’s song-and-dance routine leaves the owners speechless, and not in a good way. The characters, who begin the show with enthusiasm and optimism, quickly become disaffected as life doesn’t bring forth the riches, materially or emotionally, that they’d hoped for. The show is a genuine treat to watch, and the actors take the material and make it their own with obvious skill and cunning. Aurelio Martinez, who plays the endearing and slightly desperate Wally, has been involved with Magic Circle for more than 20 years. “He was in the second show of our very first season 21 years ago,” said producer and director, Robert Gerould. “He does about one show a year, and is a dear friend and an audience favorite.” Lee Marie Kelly, who plays the fiery and slightly sarcastic Louise, has performed with Magic Circle several times through the years, and appeared in a show in the theatre’s second season. Sophie Blackburn, who portrays the young Janet, is new to community theatre and brings youthful naiveté and a fun punch to the show. After 40 years of bad coffee and stringy pot roast, the last act treats us to Wally and Louise in their declining years. As Wally marvels at the music emanating from the old-fashioned jukebox (on loan from Rock Around the Clock of Rocklin) he cracks, “I tried to get down once, but I couldn’t get back up again.” Wally’s Café is frequently funny, yet always tender and endearing. The quality of the fine script is well matched with perfect casting and spot-on direction.