‘The Cafe Plays’ salutes the heritage of Utah’s oldest eateries

"The Cafe Plays" by former USU theatre professor Lynda Linford celebrates the rich cultural heritage of Utah's oldest and most famous eating places, including the Bluebird Restaurant in Logan.

LOGAN – “The Café Plays: Bluebirds and Lambs in an Idle Isle” is a theatrical oddity.

The original show by former Utah State University professor Lynda Linford premiered for the first time in its three-act entirety at the Utah Theatre on Wednesday.

“The Café Plays” is not a drama, although its first act certainly has dramatic elements. Nor is it a comedy, although its second and third acts thankfully have a lighter tone.

To some extent, the play is like an awkward history lesson about Utah in general and three of the state’s oldest and most famous eateries.

“The Cafe Plays” has both strengths and weaknesses. Its first act – highlighting the Bluebird Restaurant here in Logan – is one of the latter. Its plot – to the extent that there is one – rambles on far too long. At its roots, the Bluebird vignette is about two doomed romantic relationships that tragically disintegrate against a backdrop of local color about the city of Logan circa 1943.

The first act of “The Café Plays” is redeemed, however, by some superb character portrayals.

Ben Norton delivers a wonderfully understated performance as an Agricultural College of Utah professor who knows all about the skeletons in various closets.

Lynnette Turner Parry and Lucas Bybee sizzle as a pair of would-be lovers who cannot reconcile their differing backgrounds and expectations.

Annette MacFarlane and Anne Benson are hilarious as two Daughters of the Utah Pioneers who may have to surrender their temple recommends.

Finally, Tracey Norton and Corey A. Ewan share a brief but moving on-stage chemistry.

The second and third acts of “The Café Plays” – highlighting the Lamb’s Grill and Café in Salt Lake City and the Idle Isle in Brigham City respectively – take unexpected but welcome turns.

The Lamb’s Grill vignette comes in the form of a comic mystery set in the 1960s, with a bickering divorced couple, a private eye and a wise waitress trying to find a missing employee.

While Ewan and Mitzi Mecham humorously trade barbs as the divorcees, Ms. Benson cleverly keeps her cards close to her chest until the mystery is ready to be solved.

The show’s third act is a history lesson about Brigham City thinly disguised as a mixture of comic monologue and a musical review.

The entire six-woman cast of the show’s third act appear as waitresses at the Idle Isle.

Most of the narration with comic overtones is deftly provided by Ms. Benson, Ms. MacFarlane and Ms. Norton.

The harmonic singing is beautifully performed by Lindsey Kelstrom, Kaylyn Baldwin and Ms. Turner Parry.

Live performances of “The Café Plays” will continue at the Utah Theatre at 7:30 p.m. through Saturday.

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