Sixty years ago, when the Driftwood Players put on their first show, the integrated circuit was just an idea, gas was 15 cents a gallon, cars had fins, telephones had cords, and the Beatles were just four adolescent boys looking to put together a band.
Sixty years hasn’t tempered Edmonds’ enthusiasm for a good community theater.
When the lights went down, the Wade James theater was at capacity and the excitement was palpable. Managing Director Katie Soule stepped up to welcome the audience, thank the sponsors, and introduce the show.
Musical comedies are arguably one of humankind’s greatest achievement. The whole venture seems sort of far-fetched, and there’s no limit to what the odd playwright might choose to use as subject matter. It’s an amazing phenomenon.
Americans love British mysteries. Agatha Christie trails only Shakespeare and the Bible as the most published, with well over 2 billion books printed.
Satirizing the good old-fashioned “who done it“ in the form of a musical comedy isn’t the craziest idea. After all, something about our British cousins invites a little teasing. You have to admit, the cliché of the golden age mystery with its clever and sophisticated protagonist solving the insoluble diabolical crime, is pretty well positioned to be spoofed. Think of the board game Clue magically brought to life.
Something’s Afoot, set on an English country estate in the mid-1930s, doesn’t disappoint. The entire menagerie of suspicious characters grace the stage:
As one might expect, we have a military man — Colonel Gillweather (Michael Byron-Ingersoll) — and the sage Doctor Grayburn (Larry Albert), who both provide a certain gravity to the proceedings.
There are the obligatory household servants, each of whom possesses what might be considered a fatal flaw. The handyman Flint (Joe Wack) can’t seem to keep his hands to himself — he’s a “gripper;” the housemaid Lettie (Emily Swanby) gets a little greedy; and the butler Clive (Jonathan Olson), is all together too punctual for his own good.
It’s important to have a scheming golddigger — enter nephew Nigel Rancour (Josh Pulley). Thrown in for good measure, a desperate and mysterious femme fatale who claims to be Lady Grace Manly-Prowe (Dorothy Rosenthal Pierce). Let’s not forget the budding romance of Hope (Laura McFarlane) and Geoffrey (Gabriel Ponce). Of course, no mystery is complete without a detective.
Who will offer their “considerable” powers of deduction? Miss Tweed (Teri Lee Thomas), artist and Agatha Christie aficionado.
As director Scot Charles Anderson puts it, “It’s entertainment purely for entertainment’s sake. There’s no agenda. It’s simply an opportunity to escape today’s realities and laugh, be surprised, and perhaps along the way, solve a murder.”
Sometimes a purely farcical play is just what the doctor ordered. I especially enjoyed the simple, but highly amusing choreography and the gags reminiscent of the age of vaudeville.
I conducted my own very unscientific exit poll as people streamed out of the theatre. In response to my “So, what did you think?” I received several “Greats,” a couple of “Wonderfuls” and a “Loved It!” Thumbs up all around.
From a technical perspective, it amazes me that the orchestra and cast were able to play in unison as well as they did. As wonderful as The Wade James Theatre is, it doesn’t have an orchestra pit. Stashed somewhere behind the impressive English manor house set, Mark Press and his ensemble managed to stay with the vocalists on stage. He wins the “We can make this work” award.
Hats off to the small army of tech people and volunteers who run the house. Kudos also to the production team, which outnumbered the cast by about two to one. Many hands make lighter work.
If you’re looking for a fun evening of pure escapism and could use a few laughs, you might want to investigate Something’s Afoot.
The Driftwood Players Present:
Playing now – Sunday, Sept. 30
8 p.m. (Matinees – 2 p.m.)
The Driftwood Players Present:
Directed by Scot Charles Anderson
Musical Direction – Mark Press
Wade James Theatre
950 Main St.
Tickets at edmondsdriftwoodplayers.org
— By James Spangler