'Bill' Swartz (Sequoia Coe) gags John O'Connor (Norm Bullock) as her co-conspirator Abigail Martin (Gaby Wickstrom) looks on during a dress rehearsal for The Coffee Clutch at Gate House Theatre in Port McNeill.

'Bill' Swartz (Sequoia Coe) gags John O'Connor (Norm Bullock) as her co-conspirator Abigail Martin (Gaby Wickstrom) looks on during a dress rehearsal for The Coffee Clutch at Gate House Theatre in Port McNeill.

Gate House serves coffee with laughs

Gate House presents play from Port McNeill author.

PORT McNEILL—Gate House Community Association received a mixed response to its first live theatre production last weekend. But that seems mainly due to the mixed crowd makeup in its three-day run at Gate House Community Theatre.

More than 200 people turned out over three nights to watch The Coffee Clutch, a two-act comedy written by Port McNeill author and Gate House director Terry Ruth Eissfeldt, who also directed and acted in the play.

The bulk of the crowd — 96 patrons — turned out Saturday for what turned out to be a raucous and noisy evening. The show wrapped up with half that number Sunday for a more sedate closing night.

“(Saturday) there were catcalls, yelling; it was crazy,” Eissfeldt said after Sunday’s show. “It was so quiet tonight.”

Overall, though, the show proved there may well be a home on the North Island for live theatre, which Eissfeldt vows to bring back.

“This is just the start,” she said. “The next one, I’d like to see kids involved. So, a larger cast and a larger group of people.”

The Coffee Clutch, which Eissfeldt produced in 2010 at the Community Hall, featured six local amateur actors. Eissfeldt and Gaby Wickstrom were the only returning members of the original cast and two others — Norm Bullock and Blake Keen — were appearing on stage before an audience for the first time.

“It was fun,” said Keen, whose daughter, Shelby, served as assistant director and do-everything helper on the production. “I had a super good time.”

Sequoia Coe and Jessica Derksen rounded out the cast and delivered campy, over-the-top scene-stealing moments as a cynical schemer (Coe) and a ditzy blonde (Derksen).

The story involves elements of self-discovery and redemption and revolves around the characters of Fern (Eissfeldt), a timid, beaten-down divorcée in a small town who has had others make her decisions her entire life, and John O’Connor (Bullock), an A-list Hollywood star who is self-centred, condescending and boorish.

They are thrown together by a contest that lands them for a date in a coffee shop owned by Sunny (Derksen), and chaos ensues when Abby and Bill (Wickstrom and Coe) kidnap O’Connor and force him to redo the date after he leaves Fern in tears following their initial meeting. Keen plays the role of O’Connor’s Hollywood-based assistant and spends his time on stage largely befuddled by the small-town sensibilities of the coffee shop locals.

Proceeds from the production will go to assist the appearance of Missoula Children’s Theatre, which will arrive next month for a production of The Secret Garden featuring local youngsters. Gate House Association was recently accredited with charitable status, but the designation came too late to apply for grants to bring the touring company to the North Island.

Missoula Children’s Theatre auditions take place May 6 at Sunset Elementary School following classes, and two performances will be held at Gate House Theatre May 11.