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Comedy dinner theater to open, will present 'Reunited We Fall'

From left, John Peterson, Julie Quanrud, Vicki Wangberg, Sarah Einerson, Julie Kaiser and Kevin Cease rehearse for "Reunited We Fall," a dinner theater production that will be presented March 18 and 19 at the Hampton Inn & Suites. Pioneer Photo/Patt Rall

What do you get when you put together an ensemble of skilled actors, comedy script, apt director and a high school reunion at a local restaurant?

You get "Reunited We Fall," a fast-paced comedy that has the cast laughing at their own pratfalls, jokes and mishaps.

The play was first performed in 1990 at the Fire Hall Theater, Grand Forks, N.D. when the financial straits of the community theater were so bad the group needed to produce a non-royalty play. Theater Manager Steve Saari penned the script, and the show played for three weekends to full houses putting the theater back in the black that season. It was later reprised in East Grand Forks, Minn., as a fundraiser for the North Dakota Ballet Company.

"Reunited We Fall," will open Thursday, March 18, with a two-day dinner theater debut of the Saarans Production Company at the Hampton Inn & Suites. A social hour will begin at 6:30 p.m., dinner will follow at 7 p.m. and the play will begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 per person. Reservations must be made because the seating is limited, and tickets will not be available at the door. All reservations will be paid on the night of performance March 18 or 19. Call 218-616-0337 to make a reservation and dinner choice: seafood, fish, pork or stuffed acorn squash.

Saari said he can't remember why he wrote about a class reunion, but he knew that there needed to be a fast-paced, piece of fluff.

"I just sat back and watched the show; I wasn't in it and didn't direct it, and the audiences loved it," he said. "I was looking at it recently and thought that, with a few revisions, it would make a good dinner theater show, something we don't see much around here, but we had great success with dinner theater back in Grand Forks."

Saari is no stranger to Bemidji theater goers as his "Totally Necessary Men" was one of the summer offerings at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse in 2001. He was also the organist at First Lutheran Church and executive director of the Headwaters School of Music and the Arts. Last year, his "Ruby Lips Above the Water," was produced at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse with many of the same actors who are in the current production. His upcoming musical is called "Playing the Bill" about a vaudeville house after the Wall Street crash of 1929, and he expects to complete composing the musical score by early fall.

Vicki Wangberg, who plays Kevin Cease's wife in the play, remembers meeting Kevin when he was 14 years old and she was 16 at a Bible camp.

"We are two old shoes," she said. "It's very comfortable. It's really fun. There's nice banter. I said 'Yes' without even reading the part because when Steve does a show, I will do any part he gives me."

Cease said he is excited about doing dinner theater because the play is unique and perfect for the venue. He said it has action, married couples, strange characters coming and going, misunderstandings, half-truths - in short, a real farce.

The cast members agreed that working with Saari is exciting, and they all respect his approach in writing the characters and directing the show. Audience members will recognize people they knew back in high school.

The finely crafted dialogue was mentioned by all, but Julie Kaiser, who plays Penelope Wurlitzer, Miss Pom Pom, said the role is a stretch for her.

Sarah Einerson, Julie Quadrud and John Peterson will round out the cast. DeeJay Arens is the production manager and his mother, Betty Arens, is the stage manager for this production.