Cape Coral citizens may no longer have to cross the river to enjoy dinner theater thanks to a joint venture between a local club and an acting troupe.
The Cape Coral Italian American Club and the Sand Flea Players have partnered to present two productions in the coming months, with future shows planned depending on the response from the community.
Ralph Sangiovanni, second vice president of the Italian American Club, explained that the troupe's director approached the club about putting on a play, and that the club has been working on a "complete resurgence."
"Our club would be a perfect venue for that," he said, adding that a show is in line with all the new entertainment the club offers. "The Cape doesn't have anything like that and we're looking to establish that nameplate for ourself."
After further discussion, Sangiovanni and Anne M. Palmer, director and founder of the Sand Flea Players, decided to do more than one production.
"We appreciate everything that Fort Myers has, but we're also a large community and this is something that is well needed," he said.
Palmer echoed that.
"I am excited. I am very happy," she said, adding that so are the actors.
Palmer explained that she approached the Italian American Club years ago with the idea due to the club's space, but officials were not interested.
"I think Cape Coral needs something like this," she said.
Though the plays may not be on the scale as those at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, the venue will be "friendly" with "very good food."
"A great evening for a very reasonable price," Palmer said.
The cost is $35 per person. Reservations are required.
"We're trying to keep our prices as moderate as possible," Sangiovanni said.
The first show, "A Little Something for the Ducks," is a comedy about two widowed people - a man and woman, played by Dick Steele and Barbara Becchino - who meet at a pond. They strike up a conversation while feeding the ducks.
"They both come to find there is life after becoming a widow," he said.
Palmer added that the production is for all ages.
"There is no age to fall in love and be happy in love," she said.
"A Little Something for the Ducks" will first take the stage May 18. Cocktails and a five-course dinner will be followed the play at 8 p.m. in the Elegante Room. A repeat, and final, performance will be held May 19.
"The room holds 296 guests, but we'll probably top it off at 225, 250," Sangiovanni said.
Executive chef Kristopher Bailey, who formerly worked at The Edison, is employed by the club full-time and prepares all the menus and meals.
"We have a full kitchen. We have a full staff on board. We have a full bar," Sangiovanni said. "We have a very large stage and the stage expands."
The club will present "The Seance" from July 20-21.
Palmer called the show a "who done it."
"It's a comedy about trying to reach the other side," Sangiovanni added.
"It's a comedy murder mystery. Of course, with a murder mystery, someone is going to die that night," he said.
Having been in the industry for awhile, including working for the Cultural Park Theatre for 25 years, Palmer picks the productions based on experience.
"In 25 years, I learned a lot. I know what people want," she said. "Life is difficult. As you get older, life is more difficult - we need to laugh."
Palmer hopes to put on one play per month.
"We have to try first to see first how it's working," she said.
If successful, Sangiovanni is imagining a Friday-Saturday-Sunday schedule.
"I think it's going to bring a lot of people to the downtown area of Cape Coral," he said. "We're looking to attract people into the downtown area."
To make a reservation, call the Cape Coral Italian American Club at (239) 542-6515. It will take reservations up until the Thursday before the show.
"Seating is first-come, first-served basis," Sangiovanni said. "Obviously, the people who call first will have the better seats."
The Cape Coral Italian American Club is at 4725 Vincennes Blvd.
The club offers activities throughout the week.
Sunday brunch runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The $14.95 cost per person comes with a complimentary mimosa. Tuesday is karaoke from 6 to 9 p.m. There is no cost for admission, and dinner is available for $9 per person.
Wednesday is a pasta buffet with live entertainment from 5:30-8 :30 p.m. There is pasta, fish, meatballs, sausage, salad and more for $13 total, which includes tax and tip. There is also a pasta station for a made-to-order dish.
Friday is dinner and a dance from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Dinner consists of a salad, small pasta dish, main course, a dessert and coffee. Cost is $18 for members and $22 for non-members. Dance the night away to live music.
Saturdays are reserved for special entertainment and shows.
An annual membership costs $65 per person; couples must join as a couple.
Members receive a $5 savings on the Friday dinner and dance, as well as special events. There are also potluck dinners and appreciation parties.
The club also offers catering for parties, and the space is available for rent.
For more information about activities or membership, call (239) 542-6515 or visit the club's Web site online at: www.ccitalianamericanclub.com.