The Game is Askew

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are called in to investigate the mysterious death of Sir Charles Baskerville and to protect his heir, Henry Baskerville, when he receives an ominous warning to stay away from the moor.  Is there a human hand guiding this evil or is there truth to the curse of the Hound of the Baskervilles?  Find out when you watch Baskerville by Ken Ludwig and currently playing at Bellevue Little Theatre.

I had been looking forward to this show all season.  Hearing the name “Sherlock Holmes” is like ringing the chow bell as I’ve been an avid reader of these mysteries since childhood.  As a result of this, I admit to being a bit biased when it comes to Holmesian entertainment.  But that bias takes the form of having rigorous standards whenever I watch a Holmesian production or read a Holmesian story.  With that being said, I am pleased to say that Ludwig’s take on this classic tale more than meets my standards.  It’s almost completely faithful to the original story and manages to add its own unique flavor with a high dose of farcical humor well executed by a contingent of comedic clowns.

Suzanne Withem is the ringmaster of this circus and she stages it as a classic Vaudeville production with a bare-bones set.  Her direction is sterling as she never allows the energy to wane and she knows how to mine the funny out of the production with a series of well-timed jokes and fourth wall breaking moments.  Ms Withem leads her actors to strong, brilliant performances with a pell mell telling of this mystery.

I salute the superhuman efforts of the 3 actors of the play (Kevin Goshorn, Sara Scheidies, and Guillermo Joseph Rosas) as they rotate between playing nearly 20 different characters requiring complete shifts in costume, body language, accents, and voice to portray the numerous roles.  Some examples of their stellar work are Goshorn’s highly Texan Henry Baskerville, his obnoxiously crude Inspector Lestrade who constantly hocks loogies and scratches his behind, and a hilarious cameo as a charwoman cleaning 221B Baker St; Ms Scheidies’ overwrought Mrs. Barrymore who overgestures and oddly shuffles her feet, her busybodying Mrs. Hudson, or her energetic Cartwright, one of Holmes’ Baker Street Irregulars; Rosas shines as the Baskerville butler, Barrymore who has a permanently stooped posture and a wonky back; the giddy naturalist, Stapleton who has an affinity for butterflies, and a proud Castillian concierge of the Northumberland Hotel.

I’d also like to applaud the work of the roustabouts, Kaitlin Maher and Gillian Pearson, who add their own humorous touches as they bring on props, make sound effects, and sometimes are the props.

Catherine Vazquez’s Dr. Watson is the show’s straight man and narrator.  She does a wonderful job exhibiting Watson’s stalwart loyalty to Holmes, his courage under fire, and his own keen intellect, though his powers of observation and deduction are far less pronounced than those of Holmes.  She does need to project a bit more to overcome BLT’s backbox nature.  Unlike the other characters, Watson needs to be the most grounded, which Ms Vazquez certainly was, but I think she still had some leeway to elevate his energy a bit.

Ben Beck is a pitch perfect Sherlock Holmes.  Not only does he well exude Holmes’ rude, unfriendly nature, but he also well communicates Holmes’ manic energy when the thrill of an investigation is on him.  Beck well handles Holmes’ complex dialogue as he often speaks in almost stream of consciousness cadences as he makes his rapid-fire deductions. And I was particularly impressed with how quickly he was able to transition from being Holmes to being the actor playing Holmes when miscues and other errors sprang up to throw off the Vaudeville troupe.

Brendan Greene-Wash has skillfully designed a cheap looking set of cutout woods and boxes that look like they could be packed up and whisked to the next town on a moment’s notice.  Zachary Kloppenborg’s costumes are spot-on and quite elegant from Holmes’ dressing gown, to Watson’s sharp suits, to the Texan garb of Henry Baskerville, the buttling suit of Barrymore, and the raggedy clothes of the Irregulars.  Joshua Mullady’s lights always enhance any production with the eerie ghostly lights used in the story of the curse of the Baskervilles to the shadowy night scenes in Baskerville Hall.

I thought I saw a few blips such as fading or dropped accents and the mixing of pronouns in regards to Watson, but as the show is presented as a troupe doing a production of The Hound of the Baskervilles, I can’t help but wonder if these “blips” were more subtle jokes to tie into the show’s running gag of little things going wrong here and there.  In any case, Baskerville is an extremely satisfying romp that does justice to a classic Holmes mystery while making bellies jiggle with laughter.

Baskerville plays at Bellevue Little Theatre through May 19.  Showtimes are 7:30pm Fri-Sat and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors, and $10 for students.  Reservations can be made by calling 402-291-1554 or visiting the web page at bellevuelittletheatre.weebly.com.  Bellevue Little Theatre is located at 203 W Mission Ave in Bellevue, NE.

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Floating Follies

You’ve never met a crew like this one.  In the late middle 1800s, ten men begin an exploration of the Green and Colorado Rivers.  Come join in their adventures and shenanigans in Men on Boats by Jaclyn Backhaus and currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

This script is certainly. . .different.  It actually centers around an interesting concept by taking the real life explorations of ten white men and shaking it up with the conceit of all of the characters being played by a diverse group of women.  Unfortunately, the script doesn’t quite measure up to the concept as the story lacks a needed centrality and the characters are not given any arcs.  There are a few howlingly funny moments, but, on the whole, the script felt more like a rough draft than a fully polished work.  Luckily, the efforts and skill of a mighty cast combined with some skillful direction help to make the most out of this show.

Amy Lane’s direction expertly navigates the peculiarities of this story.  The play flies back and forth between period language and considerably more modern vernacular and behaviors which gives the play a real/unreal feeling and playing the truth of that dichotomy is an exceptional challenge.  Ms Lane manages to play that duality by knowing when to go over the top and when to be a bit grounded.  She also has a firm understanding of the interrelationships of these characters and that understanding leads her cast to form the powerful bonds needed to make this show fly.

Some rather entertaining performances are given by Breanna Carodine as a plucky, exuberant Union Army lieutenant who’s happy to serve and by Yone Edegbele and Esther Aruguete who have a shining moment as a pair of snarky Utes who provide food and transportation to the explorers after some of their harrowing adventures.

Teri Fender leads the crew as Major John Wesley Powell.  Ms Fender’s Powell is unflappable in the face of certain danger, pontificates like Captain Kirk, and has a sanity be damned personality.  Indeed, his willingness to jump into the arms of certain death with a smile and a maniacal gleam in his eyes makes one wonder if his sanity is just as absent as his right arm.

Daena Schweiger owns this show with her rendition of Old Shady, the brother of Major Powell, and she does it with nary a word of dialogue.  She was the most convincing man of the lot, utilizing a stooped posture which gave her movements more of a masculine feel and a sandpapery, guttural voice on her rare occasions of speaking helped to complete the illusion.  Ms Schweiger gets the show’s best moment when she launches into an impromptu song about Old Shady’s fish dinner which had audience members practically falling out of their chairs.

Allexys Johnson’s rendition of William Dunn serves as a fine counterbalance to the possibly crazed leader.  Ms Johnson’s Dunn is the most level-headed member of the group who coolly analyzes situations and takes more calculated risks in an attempt to get this team through this expedition alive.  Her yang melds well with Ms Fender’s yin to really make the debates and arguments of their characters spark and pop.

Jim Othuse’s set services the show well with a literally mapped floor and the high, towering peaks of the Rocky Mountains.  John Gibilisco’s sounds ably support the production with the blast of shotguns, the creepy rattling of a rattlesnake, and the thunderous run of the water of a raging river.  Amanda Fehlner’s costumes are period appropriate with the Civil War military garb of the soldiers, the coonskin caps and buckskins of the frontiersmen and hunters, the pith helmet and proper exploratory garments of Goodman, the expedition’s British member, and the southwestern, cowboyesque clothes of the remaining team members.

The first act was hampered a bit by lack of volume and some mushy diction, but the cast mostly rectified this in Act II.

While the story may be a bit lacking, this talented troupe of performers does provide a fine night of characterizations and their zany antics will give audience members quite a bit of amusement.

Men on Boats plays at the Omaha Community Playhouse through May 26.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets start at $30 for adults and $18 for students with prices varying by performance and seating zone.  Tickets may be purchased at OCP Box Office, by phone at 402-553-0800 or online at www.omahaplayhouse.com.  Due to strong language, the show is recommended for mature audiences.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

Staged Reading of ‘DragOn’ is Next for OCP’s Alternative Programming Season

Omaha, NE–Omaha Community Playhouse is hosting a staged reading of Jessica Austgen’s DragOn on Monday, April 29, 2019 in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre.  Alternative Programming events are free and open to the public, however free-will donations of any amount are crucial to adventurous programming.  OCP is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

Synopsis

In this unique comedy, a fledgling drag queen must go through the tests and trials of legendary cosplay divas to find her swagger.  An ode to both geek and drag cultures, this refreshingly original piece gives the audience a front row seat to what happens when you combine equal parts fantasy adventure, comic book convention, and drag show.

Directed By:  Joey Galda

Cast

Katie Miller as The Doctor

Sue Mouttet as Cat Lady/Space Princess

Michael Taylor-Stewart as The Gatekeeper

Matthew Tolliver as Weather Mutant

Juan Valdovinos as Bobbi

Christopher Violett as Mother of Drag

Travis Wilcox as Amazon Warrior

Amanda Vyhnlanek as Stage Directions reader

‘Men on Boats’ Closing Out Howard Drew Season at OCP

Omaha, NE–Men on Boats will open Friday, May 3 at the Omaha Community Playhouse.  The show runs in the Howard Drew Theatre from May 3-26, 2019.  Performances will be Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.

Synopsis

Adventure, bravery, and humorous absurdity–led by an all-female cast–Men on Boats is the “true-ish” story of ten explorers on four boats charting the course of the Colorado River in 1869.  Guided by a one-armed captain, the outlandish, but loyal, crew encounters various disasters, conflicts, and harrowing adventures along the way.

Tickets are on sale now starting at $30 for adults and $18 for students with prices varying by performance and seating zone.  Tickets may be purchased at OCP Box Office, located at 6915 Cass St, by phone at 402-553-0800 or online at www.omahaplayhouse.com.

Directed By:  Amy Lane

Cast

Teri Fender as John Wesley Powell

Carrie Beth Stickrod as William Dunn

Beth Thompson as John Colton Sumner

Daena Schweiger as Old Shady

Breanna Carodine as Bradley

Esther Aruguete as O.G. Howland/Tsauwiat

Yone Edegbele as Seneca Howland/The Bishop

Katt Walsh as Frank Goodman/Mr. Asa

Robyn Helwig as Hall

Sarah Klocke as Hawkins

Free-Spirited Farce Flips, Flops & Flies

OneMan_8

Steve Krambeck as Francis Henshall

Charming con artist and ne’er-do-well, Francis Henshall, takes a job as a minder (bodyguard) for a gangster just so he can eat regularly.  When he sees an opportunity to further line his pockets, he takes a job with a second criminal and now needs to keep both from finding out he works for the other.  This is One Man, Two Guvnors” by Richard Bean with songs by Grant Olding and based off Carlos Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters.  It is currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Trust me, this story is far more complicated than this simple synopsis as farce always is and this play contains all of the elements for a truly great farce.  You’ve got the mistaken identities, gender swapping, pratfalls, slamming doors, constant plot twists, and then everything is tidily resolved at the end of the show.  Bean does good work updating Goldoni’s story for a more modern era as it is set in the late 1960s.  But he also manages to retain the flavor of the original with characters making constant asides to reveal their true thoughts and motivations.  He still manages to make it his own with some out of the box fourth wall breaks and the need for his performers to indulge in a bit of improvisation.

Anthony Clark-Kaczmarek, one of Omaha’s finest comedic talents, helms this production and he is clearly in his element guiding this clownish tale.  He’s definitely got a good eye for a gag and comes up with some real doozies when it comes to pratfalls and some that are tastefully crass such as when Francis tries to woo a woman with a rose.  His cast has some strong comedic chops and knows how to deliver a punchline and he uses some truly unique staging such as the use of a skiffle band (Colin Duckworth, Paige Cotignola, Susan Hendrick, and Adam Sherrerd) to warm up the audience and cover scene changes with some fun and rollicking tunes.

Some of Omaha’s best and brightest grace this production, but there are some truly standout performances from Bill Hutson as a feeble and deaf waiter; Marcus Benzel whose expressions and animated movements really bolster his scenes; and John Shaw as Alan Dangle, a wannabe actor who always speaks in an overexaggerated, theatrical style.

Steve Krambeck gives an energetic performance as Francis Henshall.  Krambeck certainly has his work cut out for him as he has to add a sense of likability to an unlikable person and he does so admirably.  Krambeck oozes the charm crucial for a con artist and handles the physicality of farce quite well as his character takes quite a beating throughout the night.  But he also shows himself as having a good grip on improvisation as he often repartees with the audience and once even had me believing he had broken character during one of these interactions as his delivery of the joke was so subtle and smooth.

It is certainly an exhausting performance as Krambeck runs, flops, dances, charms, xylophones, and sings his way into your heart.

Cathy Hirsch is sterling in her performance as Rachel Crabbe.  Most impressive is that Ms Hirsch spends most of the show disguised as her character’s twin brother, Roscoe, a thug whose death prior to the show is the catalyst for everything that goes down.  Ms Hirsch’s portrayal of Rachel as Roscoe is quite convincing as her bearing, speech patterns, and walking make her a very believable man.  This also allows for a great change in dynamic when she drops the façade to be the truly feminine Rachel.

Chris Shonka is a gentlemanly brute as Stanley Stubbers.  Beneath his elegant manners beats the heart of a fiend as he’s a killer on the run who doles out violence when angered, has a penchant for sadism, and seems to have a rather deviant appetite for virgins.  Shonka does so well with the excellent manners that one tends to forget just how rotten he truly is until your brain has a chance to process some of the heinous things he’s saying.

Matthew Hamel definitely has a set for the times as the colors of his buildings really reflect the psychedelic 60s.  His buildings and scenes have the flavor of a seaside town and I rather liked his elegant dining room with its grand wooden walls towards the end of Act I.  John Giblilisco’s sounds added to the ambiance of the show with the lolling of waves, the popping of champagne corks, and the splash of bodies hitting the water.  Lindsay Pape’s costumes epitomize the swinging 60s with their bright, loud colors, especially the tweeds of Francis.  Adam Sherrerd does excellent work with the musical direction of the night’s numbers as well as being in fine fettle on lead vocals.

The show could definitely benefit from a few tweaks.  The energy of a farce needs to be akin to a runaway train once it gets going and the pace of the first act dragged.  The accents were uneven among the cast and some of the pratfalls and violence were a bit overly controlled.  On the other hand, comedy, especially farce, really needs the juice of a live audience to energize the performers and the loud laughs I heard tonight gives me confidence that this show is going to get its necessary fuel.

One Man, Two Guvnors plays at the Omaha Community Playhouse through May 5.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets start at $24, with ticket prices varying by performance and seating zone.  Tickets may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, by phone at 402-553-0800 or online at www.omahaplayhouse.com.  Due to some of the risqué humor, this show isn’t recommended for young children.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

British Farce on Tap at OCP

One Man, Two Guvnors Opens April 12 at Omaha Community Playhouse

Omaha, NEOne Man, Two Guvnors will open Friday, April 12 at the Omaha Community Playhouse.  The show will run in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre from April 12 through May 5, 2019.  Performances will be held Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.

One Man, Two Guvnors is a side-splitting farce packed with physical comedy and hilarious hijinks, set in 1960s England.  When out-of-work Francis becomes employed by two men, he goes to great lengths to serve both employers without them finding out about each other.  But soon, cases of mistaken identity and the introduction of several unusual characters begin to thwart his plan.  How long will Francis be able to keep them apart?  One Man, Two Guvnors premiered in London in 2011 with James Cordon as Francis, a role he reprised in the original Broadway productions in 2012, winning the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play.

Tickets are on sale now starting at $24, with ticket prices varying by performance and seating zone.  Tickets may be purchased at the OCP Box Office located at 6915 Cass Street, by phone at 402-553-0800 or online at www.omahaplayhouse.com.

Opening Night Party

OCP will host a British Bash to celebrate opening night of the British-born comedy, One Man, Two Guvnors.  Patrons with tickets to the opening night performance are invited to attend this free party in the Owen Lobby at OCP beginning at 6:30pm on Friday, April 12.  the celebration will feature tea and “biscuits” (cookies) and a British-themed photo booth with wacky props and backdrops.

American Sign Language Interpreted Performance

OCP with host an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreted performance of One Man, Two Guvnors on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 at 7:30pm.

ProductionOne Man, Two Guvnors

Written By:  Richard Bean

Directed By:  Anthony Clark-Kaczmarek

Cast

Steve Krambeck as Francis Henshall

Cathy Hirsch as Rachel Crabbe

Chris Shonka as Stanley Stubbers

John Shaw as Alan Dangle

Erik Quam as Harry Dangle

Brennan Thomas as Lloyd Boateng

Victoria Stark as Dolly

Cork Ramer as Charlie

Roz Parr as Pauline

Jennifer Gilg as Gareth

Bill Hutson as Alfie

Ensemble roles played by Marcus Benzel & Olivia Howard

 

 

OCP Needs Some Sailors

Omaha, NE— The Omaha Community Playhouse is holding auditions for its production of Men on Boats on Saturday, January 12 at 2pm at the Playhouse and Sunday, January 13 at 6pm at Girls, Inc.

Production: Men on Boats

Show Dates: May 3-26, 2019

Rehearsals: Begin March 24

Description: Adventure, bravery, and humorous absurdity–led by an all female cast. Men on Boats is the trueish story of ten explorers on four boats charting the course of the Colorado River in 1869. Guided by a one-armed captain, the outlandish, but loyal, crew encounter various disasters, conflicts, and harrowing adventures along the way.

Auditions: Omaha Community Playhouse (6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE) at 2pm on Saturday, Jan 12. Those auditioning should enter through the west “Stage Door” entrance and proceed to the check-in table.

Girls, Inc. (2811 N 45th St in Omaha, NE) at 6pm on Sunday, Jan 13.

Actors need only attend one audition session for consideration. Those auditioning will be asked to read from a script at auditions. If special accommodations are needed, please contact OCP prior to auditions.

Please bring all contact information, personal schedules, and a list of rehearsal conflicts with which to fill out an audition form.

To expedite the check-in process, please bring a physical copy of a headshot or recent photo of yourself. Please note, photos will not be returned.

For more information, please contact Breanna Carodine at bcarodine@omahaplayhouse.com or 402-553-4890, ext. 164.