Triumvirate Theatre’s annual Dinner Theatre and Art Auction wraps up this weekend with shows on Friday and Saturday night at Mykel’s Restaurant in Soldotna.
This year’s show, “Sockeye Balboa,” is a parody on the classic “Rocky” Balboa boxing films that actor Sylvester Stallone made famous throughout the 1970s and ‘80s.
“Sockeye” organizer and writer Chris Jenness said that the Triumvirate dinner theater began as a way to help keep the company’s finances afloat through the summer months, when the local theater scene isn’t as hot as the weather.
Now in its 14th year, the annual dinner theater is typically the final performance of the spring season (although Jenness noted there are a few more productions coming soon). The first year Triumvirate put on a dinner theater routine, Jenness said they raised around $8,000 — to their pleasant surprise.
“We figured out it was a way to get ourselves through the summer, which is always a rough time for theater,” he said. “We thought we should try dinner theater, and it would be funny to do a fishing parody.”
Jenness said his wife Carla usually writes out the script, but this year he took over production duties — what with his knowledge of the Rocky films. Jenness said the story line doesn’t follow one Rocky story, but rather ropes in many scenes and themes from all the movies.
Piecing together a comedy that injects bits of local and statewide flavor is a task that he enjoys, and the production incorporates jabs at Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget, Soldotna’s annexation plans and a few Nikiski jokes. Jenness said the biggest thrill and challenge with dinner theater compared to the traditional performances is the intimacy of the crowd.
“On a regular stage, you have this real separation from the audience,” he said. “With dinner theater, you are so close to the audience, you have no choice but to interact with them personally. When you’re a foot and a half away from them, it would be sort of silly not do.”
This year’s show, “Sockeye Balboa,” continues the local fishing theme that Triumvirate’s dinner theater is known for. Taking a page from past performances such as “Forrest Guppy,” “Citizen King,” “Trout-tanic” and the “Princess Brine,” this year’s story follows “Sockeye” Balboa — a determined combat fisherman looking to make his name as a champion king fisherman.
“This year, somebody thought it would be funny to do ‘Rocky’,” Jenness said. “And Tyler does a great Rocky impression.”
Tyler Payment stars as Sockeye and employs the trademark persona that actor Sylvester Stallone brings to the original Rocky character, complete with the gritty Brooklyn and Italian accent that Payment nails.
Backing up Payment is a talented cast of Triumvirate veterans. Joe Rizzo complements Payment’s Sockeye character as “Mickey,” the gritty old-school boxing trainer that keeps Balboa on his toes, while AnneMarie Rudstrom plays Adrian, Balboa’s love interest.
Shaylon Cochran takes on the role of “Apollo Krill,” the fisherman version of Apollo Creed from the original films. Rob Ernst plays Paulie, Adrian’s brother.
Jenness himself brings life to the Russian fighter role, or in this case, the Russian combat fisherman that challenges Sockeye.
The rest of the cast includes Kate Schwarzer, Nikki Stein, Hannah Tauriainen, Carla Jenness and Justin Smith.
“Sockeye Balboa,” Trimerate’s Dinner Theatre and Art Auction, will play Friday and Saturday nights at 7 p.m. at Mykel’s Restaurant in Soldotna. Dinner begins at 6 p.m. The evening ends with an auction of local art and gifts.