Cow Patti presents The Great Kooshog Lake Hollis McCauley Fishing Derby

Businessman James Bell (Liam Collins) is taught how to fish by Melanie (Ali Mackay) during Tuesday afternoon rehearsals for Cow Patti Theatre Company's upcoming production of Norm Foster's "The Great Kooshog Lake Fishing Derby" afternoon at the Lacombe Golf and Country Club. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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Cast away your troubles and join Cow Patti Theatre Company for The Great Kooshog Lake Hollis McCauley Fishing Derby.

The Bob Newhart-meets-Schitt’s Creek comedy by famed Canadian playwright Norm Foster will open Cow Patti’s 24th season, running from Nov. 8 to Dec. 15 at the Lacombe Golf and Country Club.

As the length of the name suggests, it’s a show bound to lure you in and leave you reeling in laughter.

“They’re going to laugh. It’s a quirky little show with a lot of heart,” said AnnaMarie Lea, actress and “Head Cow” of the Cow Patti herd.

The play centres on young, Toronto business man James Bell (Liam Collins), who gets stuck in the rural community of Kooshog Lake when his car breaks down while he’s on his way to a conference. While he takes himself seriously, no one else in the eccentric and quirky town appears to take him, or his plight as such, especially as they hold their annual fishing derby to catch an elusive fish that supposedly looks like one of the locals in town, Hollis McCauley.

The famed fish was almost caught 23 years ago by bait and tackle shop owner Kirk Douglas (Brian Young), and since the derby kitty has grown and the town is overrun with visitors casting their lines in hopes of hitting the jackpot. Bell gets hooked into all the “derby drama” that unfolds – and perhaps by antique shop owner Melanie Morningside (Ali MacKay), too – in a fish-out-of-water tale of romance, broken hearts, hilarity, and a shark attack.

Businessman James Bell (Liam Collins), front, deals with the quirky Kooshog Lake residents including (left to right) Kirk Douglas (Brian Young), Melanie Morningside (Ali MacKay), Sienna (Linda Goranson), and Rhonda Borkowski (AnnaMarie Lea) during Tuesday afternoon rehearsals for Cow Patti Theatre Company’s upcoming production of Norm Foster’s “The Great Kooshog Lake Fishing Derby” at the Lacombe Golf and Country Club. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

When everyone isn’t at the lake trying to lure in Hollis McCauley, they’re gathering at Sienna’s Groceries, owned by none other than Sienna (Linda Goranson) herself, a woman with a hidden big heart who will tell anyone exactly what she thinks of them, no sugar added, and thrown into the mix is Rhonda Borkowski (AnnaMarie Lea), a woman Lea describes as lucky in business, but not so lucky in love.

As one of Foster’s newest shows, it hasn’t been produced a lot. Lea discovered the play when she and Goranson were in it two seasons ago at the Upper Canada Playhouse in Morrisburg, Ontario, where they first played their roles and said she knew they had to bring it to the central Albertan audience.

“When I was in the show, I just enjoyed being in it so much and observing how the audiences reacted to the show was a key factor for me,” she said. “I love producing Norm’s works – I think people are very familiar and love his shows. (The characters) are relatable people in relatable situations and often the audience can sit back and go: ‘Oh yeah, it’s like Martha, isn’t it?’”

The show is directed by Donnie Bowes, who is also the artistic director of Upper Canada Playhouse in Morrisburg, Ontario, and led the production of the play Lea and Goranson were in before and said the audience had a lot of fun with it and believes the same will happen here.

“Someone once told me no matter if it’s a farce or not a comedy, one of the great things about a show is a great story and it’s a really great story,” he said. “In addition to the great story, Norm’s not the most produced playwright in Canada for no reason. The first reason is he writes shows with ordinary people, but also he’s a very, very funny man. He just knows how to develop characters that make people laugh, but real characters that make people laugh.”

The cast agreed, talking about their love of how Foster writes well-rounded female characters, as well as his style.

“The rhythms in his language are so beautiful,” said Goranson. “There’s a flow – it’s almost musical. Hes just amazing.”

But you don’t have to take her word for it – decide for yourself by taking in one of 40 performances from  Nov. 8- Dec. 15.

Tickets have already sold out for at least one performance, but there are still a number of performances left, including for a number of benefit performances for local area non-profits. For show dates and times, visit www.cowpatti.com.

While it’s not a Christmas show, it’s bound to put those in attendance in a jollier mood by the time the play ends.

“I don’t produce theatre to make people think and get deep – there’s enough of that in all of our lives and I think our job is to make people have a really good time and forget about real world problems for a few hours,” Lea said.

Cow Patti Theatre will also put on Lunenburg, another Norm Foster play, in the new year. The show will run from March 12 to April 5, 2020.

The set of the The Great Kooshog Lake Hollis McCauley Fishing Derby includes a fishing dock, and the storefront of Sienna’s Groceries – a gathering place for the locals. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

(Left to right) Kirk Douglas (Brian Young), James Bell (Liam Collins), Sienna (Linda Goranson), Rhonda Borkowski (AnnaMarie Lea), and Melanie Morningside (Ali MacKay) rehearse a scene during Tuesday afternoon rehearsals for Cow Patti Theatre Company’s upcoming production of Norm Foster’s “The Great Kooshog Lake Fishing Derby” at the Lacombe Golf and Country Club. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

Businessman James Bell (Liam Collins), front, deals with the quirky Kooshog Lake residents including (left to right) Kirk Douglas (Brian Young), Melanie Morningside (Ali MacKay), Sienna (Linda Goranson), and Rhonda Borkowski (AnnaMarie Lea) during Tuesday afternoon rehearsals for Cow Patti Theatre Company’s upcoming production of Norm Foster’s “The Great Kooshog Lake Fishing Derby” at the Lacombe Golf and Country Club. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

Businessman James Bell (Liam Collins) is taught how to fish by Melanie (Ali Mackay) during Tuesday afternoon rehearsals for Cow Patti Theatre Company’s upcoming production of Norm Foster’s “The Great Kooshog Lake Fishing Derby” afternoon at the Lacombe Golf and Country Club.

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