The people at Arvada’s Festival Playhouse know Opal Kronkie well.
The central figure of seven of John Patrick’s plays, the bag lady who lives on the edge of the municipal town dump has been delighting audiences at the theater for years, and now she’s kicking off its 78th year of production.
“Opal’s Million Dollar Duck” will be on stage at the Festival Playhouse, 5665 Olde Wadsworth Blvd., Sept. 13-22. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays.
“The audience really, really likes her,” said Charley Ault, Playhouse owner and director of the show. “She’s really withstood the test of time, and we like to do a little more obscure plays because we’ve been doing this for so long.”
“Opal’s Million Dollar Duck” was the last Opal play Patrick wrote, and is full of his own homespun philosophies, and funny one-liners, tinged with a bit of bitterness.
In this outing Opal (Donna Ault) comes across an odd painting of a duck in the garbage, and decides to sell it at her antique junk shop. When her best friend Rosie (Karen Johnston) comes calling, reminding Opal that her birthday is coming up, she decides to make it a gift for Rosie. Enter Queenie (Lindsay Griebler) and Desmond (Dennis Leach), “stars” of a local summer-stock company. They’re visiting on the hunt for costumes, stage props and any other materials to use in their productions, when they come across the painting.
Having just read that the town’s museum accidentally threw away a priceless painting of a duck, they put two and two together, and try to hoodwink Opal out of the painting.
“She’s able to see through them, not because she’s the brightest person, but because of her kindness,” Donna said. “She’s a very, very loving person, and sees no bad in anyone.”
Donna has played Opal around four or five times, and is able to quote some of Opal’s own brand of wisdom on a dime. She said at this point she’s got her portrayal of Opal down, and it’s pretty easy for her to slip into character.
The show is made up of familiar faces on all counts — all of the actors have been working with the playhouse for at least three years, and in some cases, more than 40.
“We’re really lucky to have actors who have experience here. As a director, I’m really able to just let them do their own thing,” Charley said. “I really like my actors to reach into their own experiences for the characters.”
Both Charley and Donna credit the words and idea Patrick imbibed Opal with as the feature that keeps people returning to see her.
“Patrick really wrote a lot about these down and out people,” Charley said. “The philosophies he gave her are just as pertinent now as when they were written.”
For Donna, it comes down to a simple fact.
“People remember Opal.”