The dinner theater at the Circle Bar B Guest Ranch, now celebrating its 40th season, is the oldest continuously operating theater company in Santa Barbara, and the formula for this anniversary season involves revisiting some of the theater’s greatest hits by decade. While The Drunkard, which opened on Friday, April 1, is based on a play from the late 19th century, it’s also an example of the company’s work from the 1970s and is dedicated to ranch owner Jim Brown. The play follows the adventures of a dipsomaniac Edward Middleton (Max Avila) as he struggles against the adverse effects of alcohol on his life and against the show’s villain, Squire Cribbs (Grant McKee). Along the way there are songs, pantomime-style gestures, and a hilarious and wonderfully entertaining “olio,” which is a separate interval coming right before the second act and allowing the cast to demonstrate their skills as impressionists in a satire of Laugh In.
Melodrama depends for its impact on the technique and pacing of the cast, and in this regard Susie Couch in multiple roles, Amanda Terman as Mary Wilson, and Sean Jackson as William Dowton were particularly useful in keeping things on track. Young Tessa Miller was great in her role as Julia Middleton, and the whole cast shone as a cavalcade of thinly veiled stars of the 1970s in the olio.