Gaslit

A cruel sociopath slowly drives his wife insane and her only hope for escape lies in an eccentric detective obsessed with solving an open case from early in his career.  This is Angel Street and it is currently playing at Brownville Village Theatre.

I had heard of this story under its more famous name of Gaslight, but this was my first time seeing it in any medium and I had really been missing out on something special.  Patrick Hamilton wrote a tight, taut thriller that had me hooked from start to finish.  Hamilton has a grand gift for words and knows how to use them to build mood, tension, intrigue, and emotion.  This play is completely dialogue driven, but Hamilton’s skill in plotting had me feeling as if I had run a marathon by the time it was all said and done.

Now a play needs more than good words to sell it.  It also needs fantastic acting and direction to unlock the full potential of those words and this play has all of that and so much more.

Mitch Bean’s direction is spot on.  He understands the many twists and turns of the play’s mazelike plot and knows how to build and resolve the play’s many intense scenes.  Some of his finest moments were the final confrontations between Mr. Manningham and Detective Rough and Mr. and Mrs. Manningham.  The Manningham/Rough scene is particularly gripping and is the verbal equivalent of a savage fistfight with the way the two men continue circling each other and fling words at each other like knives.  Bean has also coached his entire cast to sterling performances with nary a weak link among them.

Bella Walker and Lucy Haarmann are very strong in the smaller roles of household servants.  As Elizabeth, Haarmann is very loyal to her mistress and is actually the character that first leads Mrs. Manningham to her first steps on her road to freedom.  Walker is very smug and saucy as Nancy, a servant who acts like and has ambitions to be the mistress of the house.

I have to admit that when I first saw Benjamin Salazar, I thought he was a little young for the role of Mr. Manningham, but, the second he opened his mouth, I completely bought into the illusion.  Salazar has a rich and powerful voice that belies his youth and is suited for the evil Manningham.  And, believe me, evil is defined by this man.  Though he has the manners of a gentleman, Manningham is a cruel, vicious monster.  Salazar knows how to use Manningham’s words like a weapon as he constantly pummels his wife emotionally and even teases her with occasional bursts of kindness.  Salazar plays Manningham with an uber controlled menace and his ramrod posture makes Manningham seem like a cocked gun threatening to go off at any moment.  And that control is crucial as it makes his explosive moments of anger and violence truly frightening as the play surges to its conclusion.

Trevor Comstock is a delight as Detective Rough.  Comstock’s take on Rough reminded me of Jim Hutton’s interpretation of the fictional detective, Ellery Queen, as he seemed to be a bit of an absent-minded genius.  He clearly listens to Mrs. Manningham as he questions her about her current situation and husband, but his eyes show that he’s thinking ten steps ahead which make his replies seem cryptic, yet they’re not.  Comstock brings an indefatigable energy to the character as he warps about the room and you can practically taste his excitement in finally closing the lone open case of his career.  Comstock also brings the commanding presence needed to both buoy Mrs. Manningham and cow the steely Mr. Manningham.

Rachel Curtiss brings her all to the role of Mrs. Manningham.  This is not an easy role to play due to the massive emotional shifts of the character, but Curtiss nails it to the floor.  Curtiss does a good job of vacillating between being nearly broken emotionally and mentally, to a brief burst of happiness, to the wonderment of Rough’s story, to a little gaslighting of her own when she confronts her brute of a husband.  Curtiss’ body language is phenomenal as she seems like a spring that has been wound too tight and seems apt to break at any moment.

Mitch Bean has designed a fine upper middle-class house with well to do furniture such as a desk and secretary with fine china.  Sara Scheidies’ costumes suit the period of the time especially with the Victorian dress of Mrs. Manningham and the elegant wear and ascots of Mr. Manningham.  Trevor Comstock’s usage of lights is one of the best I’ve seen in a show as he uses it to set mood, particularly with the gaslights as the room darkens and lights based on the flow of gas.  Benjamin Salazar’s sounds help to enhance the action with the sounds of footsteps being a favorite of mine.

This is a truly intense and gripping night of theatre and I highly recommend seeing it and bringing a friend or loved one to get you through the spooky moments.  While this may be my first visit to Brownville Village Theatre, I can guarantee it won’t be my last.

Angel Street plays at Brownville Village Theatre through August 12.  Showtimes are 7:30pm on July 16 and 24, and August 4 and 12 and 2pm on July 23 and 31 and August 7.  Tickets cost $15 and can be purchased at the Box Office, visiting www.brownvillevillagetheatre.com, or calling 402-825-4121.  Due to intense scenes and subject matter, this show is not suitable for children.  Brownville Village Theatre is located at 222 Water Street in Brownville, NE.

The Adventure of the Nameless Corpse

Lovely little nutcracker, isn’t it?  Well, this nutcracker has a very interesting story behind it.  This nutcracker is both a trophy and a reminder of the time I assisted Mr. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson in solving a murder at the Victorian Villa in Union City, MI.

I had alluded to this story when I wrote my remembrance of the inn back in 2014, but enough time has passed that it is now safe to share the tale.  Some elements must still remain hidden, so some names may be changed and some details removed and altered, but those that know the truth will understand.

Many believe Holmes and Watson to be fictional characters, but that is a myth perpetuated by Dr. Watson’s literary agent, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who published Dr. Watson’s stories under his name.  In truth, they are real and much older than one would believe. 

In his retirement, Holmes had cultivated a royal jelly elixir and ingestion of it had greatly extended his life span and that of Dr. Watson.  Over the years Holmes and Watson had regularly visited the Victorian Villa as its owner, Ron Gibson, is the great-grandson of Senator Neil Gibson referenced in the case known as “The Problem of Thor Bridge”.  Aside from their friendship, Holmes also enjoyed visiting Union City as, in his own words, “it is a hellhole of crime of great depth and brilliance”.

When I learned that Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson would be visiting, I immediately booked a weekend stay to meet the famed detective and his trusted associate.

It was September of 2005 and I was making my second foray out to the Villa.  I was a bit weary as I had mistakenly forgotten to schedule myself as unavailable for Hamlet rehearsals the night before so I had put in a long night of rehearsing before setting off on my drive at 10pm.  By midnight, I was exhausted and collapsed at a Motel 6 in Des Moines, IA before driving another 8 hours to Union City the next morning.  The welcome sight of the gorgeous Victorian mansion served as a salve to my spirits and boosted my energy level as I pulled into the tiny parking lot.

The Victorian Villa

Once more, I was greeted by Ron and his two sons, Zach and Josh, before being led to my room for the weekend:  the Victorian Country Bedchamber.  As I got myself situated, I found a note under my pillow.  It was rather snarky and, I noted, written in a feminine hand.  I put it away before freshening up and reacquainting myself with the Villa.

Around 6pm, Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson arrived at the inn.  I introduced myself to Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson who politely shook my hand.  Holmes was just as Watson had described him with his aloofness and unmistakable air of authority.  Watson was friendly and every bit the gentleman.

I retired to the parlor with Holmes and Watson and the other guests who had come to meet the legendary duo.  Among them were Ted and Rhonda Cowell and their Holmesian scion society, The Stormy Petrels of Maumee Bay; the Mallon family; George Ault; and Mr. and Mrs. Glenn Harbaugh.

We opened up the night with a round of Sherlockian Trivial Pursuit.  We formed into two teams and Mr. Holmes asked diabolically difficult questions relating to the many cases he had investigated.  As the two teams battled back and forth, Mr. Holmes would vacillate between contentedly smoking his pipe and brooding about some vexing problem.  On several occasions he alluded to a case he was working on before returning to the game.

Sherlock Holmes relaxes

By the end of the game, the two teams were locked into a tie, though I ended up stealing a symbolic victory for my side when I answered the question “Who killed Victor Savage?”  After the hard-fought game, we entered the dining room where Mr. Holmes gave us a demonstration on the art of observation and deduction while we dined on one of Ron’s fine meals which consisted of English Cheshire Cheese Soup and roasted loin of boar among other delicacies.  I did note that Ron had brought on some help for the event as a placard on the table said the meal had been partially catered by Maxine Simons.

Upon finishing our meal, we returned to the parlor where Mr. Holmes told us he was investigating a murder that had taken place at the Villa a few days prior.  A man had shown up at the Villa around 11am on the fateful day and asked Ron if he could have a room.  As Ron had no reservations, he rented a room to the man who gave no name, but simply went upstairs to his bedroom with his dressing bag.  A short while later, Ron saw him descend the stairs sans bag and enter the parlor.  Ron left him to his own devices as he had to leave the Villa to run some errands.  When he returned later, he found the man collapsed on the floor, arm outstretched in front of him, and clearly dead.  Ron contacted the police who found no identification on the man nor in his room.  The labels on his clothes had been cut off and the only items found on him were a handkerchief, some cigarettes, and a pen.  Ron had told Mr. Holmes of the baffling death and he agreed to look into it.

Mr. Holmes wanted us to be his eyes and ears and help him investigate.  He asked us to discover the following:

  1. Who was the victim?
  2. How was he killed?
  3. Who killed him?
  4. Find a way to link the killer to the crime and unmask him or her.

Certain rules were set in place for us.  As Mr. Holmes had already investigated the private areas of the mansion, we were not to enter them.  He also told us not to snoop into Ron’s desk as only he would be allowed to investigate it.  Short of that we were free to investigate as we chose. If we managed to discover any evidence, we were only to hold onto it for 10 minutes before returning it exactly where it was found.  Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson bade us good evening and left the Villa promising to return after breakfast in the morning.

Exhaustion had found me again so I retired to my bedroom, vowing to rise early and begin looking into the case.

I arose the next morning feeling refreshed.  After heading to the dining room and enjoying some of Ron’s special scrambled eggs and sausage patties, I began to look into the case. 

From re-reading Ron’s statement, I realized that the victim had not carried his dressing bag back down with him so I immediately went to the second floor and began searching for it, but was unable to find it.  I searched the mansion from top to bottom and then made my way over to the Carriage House.  Up in the Sherlock Holmes Bedchamber, I discovered George Ault and Glenn Harbaugh discussing something and they froze when they saw me.  I asked if I could enter and Glenn said I could.  I quietly closed the door and noted they had the dressing bag.

“So you found it,” I said.

Realizing I had already deduced the clue, George and Glenn opened the bag and we all looked into it.  Among the toiletries, we found a letter addressed to James Fitzsimmons requesting a meeting in the parlor of the Villa to discuss the matter of a deadly toxin that had been developed by the writer of the letter.  Apparently Fitzsimmons had been the letter writer’s boss and had aspirations of selling the toxin to the highest bidder who would likely weaponize it.  The toxin caused almost instantaneous paralysis before shutting down the body’s vital organs.  Death would occur in a matter of minutes.  The writer wanted Fitzsimmons to destroy the toxin and begged for a meeting to convince him of this.  It was simply signed Max, though I recognized the handwriting as being the same as that on the note in my bedroom.

After examining the evidence, I asked the two men if they had found notes as well.  They admitted they had and let me read them.  Red herrings and smart alecky comments.  After reading this, we looked at each other and I suggested pooling our resources to which George and Glenn readily agreed.

“All right, we’re now a team,” I said.

Upon forming our alliance we headed down to the parlor to meet Mr. Holmes who asked if anybody had anything to share.  I casually blurted the bag clue to which Mr. Holmes looked at me and said, “You’re a rather blithe young man, aren’t you?”

After unintentionally giving out the clue, the race was on.  Though we were investigating a crime, it was treated more like a competition and ended up as a three way battle between The Stormy Petrels, the Mallons, and my little triumvirate.  The Petrels played for keeps and were not above providing a few red herrings.  The Mallons were smart and crafty, though I engaged in a little quid pro quo with Mrs. Mallon which I’ll get to in a bit.

Mr. Holmes was always available for private consultation where we could bring our discoveries and theories and he would make comments and subtle suggestions to help light our path.  When we first informed Holmes about the letter we found, Glenn kept referring to the writer as a he, to which Mr. Holmes asked, “Why do you keep saying ‘he?’”.

“What do mean?” asked Glenn.

“He means how do we know it’s a man,” I replied.

“Precisely,” said Holmes as he clasped my shoulder.

A vital clue, indeed.  While not a guarantee, we did have to open our minds to the possibility that Max, if that was the real name, was a woman.

We continued to investigate.  I realized that no matches or lighter were found on the corpse, though cigarettes had been discovered.  No smoker would ever lack those items and there was no reason for the killer to take them.  Remembering the outstretched arm, I assumed the position of the corpse and found a book of matches under the coal scuttle.

Taking them, I opened up the packet and found a scrawled message which said “Beware TR-70”.  The name of the toxin had been found!!

Outside the parlor, I found a business card book on a stand and began thumbing through it and saw Mrs. Mallon watching me.  When I leafed to the third page, she suddenly coughed.  I looked up and saw her smiling at me, I took a hard look and found the business card for Maxine Simons—Caterer.  However, “caterer” had been written in pen over a blacked out word.  Reversing the card and holding it up to the light, I saw “chemist” written under it.  I had the name of the killer!!  I then shared with Mrs. Mallon the name of the poison out of gratitude.

My team had another consultation with Holmes where Glenn spun an amusing, but outlandish, theory that Ron Gibson was the killer or, at least involved with her.  Mr. Holmes and I shared some glances and after Glenn finished his theory, Holmes simply stated, “I sense you have some misgivings about his theory.”

“One or two,” I replied.

I then finally had a chance to fill in Glenn and George on my discoveries and had a private conversation with Mr. Holmes and Mrs. Mallon while I made my deductions.  When I finished, Mr. Holmes looked to Mrs. Mallon and said, “You know, I have great faith in this young man.  He’s quiet, thoughtful, and observant and everything he says is based soundly on logic.”

Then we took a break and had a reading of one of Watson’s stories followed by a pop quiz.  I ended up winning the quiz contest and surprised Mr. Holmes with one of my answers.

“This number is the square root of the number alluded to by Watson,” said Holmes.

“Sixteen,” I readily answered.

“Sixteen is correct!!” said Holmes with some wonderment.  “Tell me, young man, how did you come up with that answer?”

“Watson mentioned the wait was like the night the two of you faced the Andaman Islander which was a reference to the case known as The Sign of Four,” I said.

Holmes smiled and nodded approvingly.

After the quiz we had afternoon tea where Ron had prepared a whole turkey and we helped ourselves to little sandwiches with a bit of homemade mustard and fixings.

The case was solved, but there was still one last item:  how to unmask Maxine.  There was no real proof tying her to the death and all my deductions wouldn’t hold water in court.  I had a final consultation with Holmes where I told him everything I had learned, but felt I was just one step away from the total truth. 

“Think of the problem of the three Moriartys.  All of them were named James and were identical.  How would one tell them apart?” said Mr. Holmes.

I began to see the light when he gave me one final nudge.

“You have two pieces of vital evidence.  What you need is a third.”

The truth hit me like a thunderbolt.  The letter on my pillow plus the letter in the bag were my pieces of evidence.  What I needed was a way to get a third example of Maxine’s handwriting to connect her with the other two.  Handwriting was how you’d distinguish the Moriarty boys from each other.

Piecing the puzzle together

I expressed this problem to Glenn and George and we threw around ideas until I said, “Maybe we could get a card of some sort.”

“My son is serving over in Iraq.  We could get him a Wish You Were Here card,” said George.

“Yes, and we’ll have everybody in the inn sign it!!” I exclaimed.

The three of us dashed to Mr. Holmes where I laid out the scheme.

“An excellent plan,” said Holmes. 

I shook hands with Holmes and Watson and dashed to the bar area where I found Ron.

“Is there a drug store nearby?” I asked.

“Yes, just a few blocks up on Main Street,” said Ron.

“Thank you,” I said.

Then I speed walked through the front door and vaulted over the steps to the sidewalk.  I then sprinted and I do mean SPRINTED to the drug store where I bought the card and repeated the process back to the Villa where I hurdled the steps once more.  George later said it was the funniest thing he ever saw.

As I walked back in, I heard Mrs. Mallon’s daughter ask if there were a drug store nearby.  I then politely coughed and gently waved the card.  Knowing that the game was up, the Mallons signed the card and Mrs. Mallon’s daughter assisted me with finishing the job by asking Ron if there were any other people in the kitchen as Maxine was also helping to cater tonight’s dinner.  Ron stepped into the kitchen and asked Maxine to step out.  I told her about the card while George showed a picture of his son and Maxine signed the card.

I then led my team back to the parlor where the other guests had gathered. 

“Do you have something to show me, young man?” asked Mr. Holmes.

I presented the card to him and he looked at it.

“Were there any witnesses?” he asked.

“Yes, sir.   Myself, (Mrs. Mallon’s daughter), George, Ron, Zach, and Josh all witnessed this.”

“Very good,” said Mr. Holmes.  “This case has been solved.”

Then we proceeded to have a debate about what to do with the killer.  Her motivations were understandable.  Fitzsimmons would have unleashed a plague of death on the world.  He had committed no crime, but would have had the blood of countless people had he sold the toxin.  Maxine shouldn’t have killed him, but her act had thwarted a much greater evil so I pled for leniency.  Holmes said he would consider the situation.

Glenn gave me a hug and then bought George and myself a drink at the bar.  Mr. Holmes approached me privately and asked me to present the denouement after dinner.

A splendid dinner was served and after we were all satiated, Mr. Holmes signaled for silence, indicated my two partners and then clasped my shoulder acknowledging our victory.  He then presented me with the nutcracker as a trophy for the case.  Then he brought Ron, his two sons, and Maxine into the dining room where I presented my findings.

I walked the group through the maze of the case, casually keeping an eye on Maxine who whitened with every revelation.  When I explained about the card we had purchased and how the killer had sealed her fate by signing it, I calmly looked at Maxine and said, “Isn’t that right, Maxine?”

At that point, Maxine begged for mercy and Holmes gently led her out of the dining room while discussion resumed.  Shortly afterwards, he returned and he and Watson made their final farewells and exited.

And that was how I helped Mr. Holmes solve The Adventure of the Nameless Corpse.  I would later learn that Holmes did show mercy to Maxine, letting her leave the country.  George did send the card to his son with an incredible story.  I had made new friends and had a reminder of the case forever gracing my mantle.  And the next morning, I enjoyed some of Ron’s incredible cream cheese stuffed French Toast.

Little did I know that I would return to the Villa a few years later with my trusted friend, Mat O’Donnell, to engage in a peculiar investigation centering around a crying woman.

But that is a story for another time.

Bellevue Little Theatre Announces 54th Season

Bellevue Little Theatre Announces Season 54

Footloose: Sept 16- Oct 2, 2022

Footloose celebrates the exhilaration of youth, the wisdom of listening to one another, and the power of forgiveness.

It’s A Wonderful Life: Nov 4-20, 2022

-It’s the gorgeous love story of George and Mary Bailey, a vivid portrait of the Greatest Generation, a descent into the darkest hour of a man trapped by circumstance and a powerful meditation on what makes a meaningful life.

Agatha Christie’s Spider’s Web: Jan 13-29, 2023

-A conscious parody of the detective thriller, Christie delivers a unique blend of suspense and humor in a intricate plot of murder, police, drug addicts, invisible ink, hidden doorways and secret drawers.

A Little Night Music: Mar 10-26, 2023

-Stephen Sondheim’s romantic nineteenth-century waltz whisks us away to a weekend in the country.

Girls’ Weekend: May 5-21, 2023

*Our 250th Production!*

-From the writer of our World Premiere: Temporary Insanity. Karen Schaeffer’s Girls’ Weekend is “Marvelous … successfully punchy … be prepared to laugh”

Chanticleer Needs Some Steppers

 Auditions for the final production of the Chanticleer Community Theater 2021 – 2022 season, The 39 Steps, will be held on Sunday, March 13 and Monday, March 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Hoff Family Arts and Culture Center (1001 South 6th Street, Council Bluffs, IA, 51501).

The 39 Steps is a fast-paced whodunit for anyone who loves the magic of theatre!  This two-time Tony and Drama Desk Award-winning treat is packed with nonstop laughs, adventure and some good old-fashioned romance.

Those auditioning will be asked to do a cold reading from the script. 

There are 4 roles available:  1 male, 1 female (plays multiple parts), 2 any gender (play multiple parts).  

Please bring a list of conflicts from March 14 through May 22. The 39 Steps opens May 13 and runs through May 22, 2022.  

Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 for two weekends. 

“The 39 Steps” will be directed by Roxanne Wach.  

OCP Reimagines 96th Season

OCP ANNOUNCES REVAMPED 2020/21 SEASON LINEUP, SAFETY PRECAUTIONS

Omaha, NE.– The Omaha Community Playhouse has announced a new, revamped 2020/21 season lineup with special precautions in place to protect audiences, volunteers and staff from COVID-19.

A SEASON REIMAGINED

This year, COVID-19 brought the world to its knees, and the performing arts—including live theatre—were hit hard. From London’s West End to Broadway, New York, to right here in Omaha, stages around the world have gone dark.

At OCP, we have worked tirelessly to invent new ways to keep performing art alive during this crisis. From streaming productions online to moving shows outdoors, we have adapted and innovated to keep art in our community.

While we’ve been imagining new ways to stay connected, we’ve also been reimagining what a safe in-theatre experience could look like in the era of COVID. We believe we’ve created a plan that places the health of our community first while creating a safe environment for live theatre to thrive. It begins with our reimagined 2020/21 season lineup.

OCP’s New 2020/21 Season Lineup

Billy McGuigan‘s Pop Rock Orchestra*

Aug. 5 – 23

Storz Parking Lot at OCP

Don’t Stop Me Now! A Celebration of Rock Musicals

Aug. 28 – Sept. 20

Storz Parking Lot at OCP

Grounded

Sept. 25 – Oct. 18

Howard Drew Theatre

Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience*

Oct. 2 – Nov. 1

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

I Am My Own Wife

Oct. 30 – Nov. 15

Howard Drew Theatre

A Christmas Carol*

Nov. 13 – Dec. 23

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

Title To Be Announced

Nov. 27 – Dec. 23

Howard Drew Theatre

The Last 5 Years

Jan. 15 – Feb. 7

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

The Candy Project Presents: Guttenberg! The Musical!*

Feb. 12 –March 14

Howard Drew Theatre

Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express

Feb. 26 – March 21

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

In The Heights

April 16 – May 9

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

Clybourne Park

May 7 – 30

Howard Drew Theatre

Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka

May 28 – June 27

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

*Special engagement; Not a regular season production

We reimagined our season lineup.

  • We added concert-style drive-in shows to take advantage of our outdoor space as long as possible.
  • We removed shows with large cast sizes from our fall and winter time slots. In their place, we have added four wonderful productions with two performers or fewer. The new shows are compelling, entertaining and—most importantly—safe. The small cast sizes will allow our actors to safely rehearse and perform, create plenty of room for our backstage crew to social distance and help protect our patrons by reducing the overall number of people present in the theatre.
  • Fan favorite Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience will move to the larger Hawks Mainstage theatre and open in October. The larger stage will allow the band to socially distance and the larger theatre will safely accommodate the show’s many fans.
  • The holiday tradition of A Christmas Carol will live on for 2020 in a unique and imaginative small cast format.
  • Finally, we shuffled four titles from our original lineup to the end of the season. While these shows do feature more cast members, we are hopeful that these productions will be safe to carry out by next Spring. These four shows were selected based on existing ticket sales (via subscriptions), director availability, and royalties logistics.

We reimagined our performance spaces.

  • Patrons attending a show in either theatre will be socially distanced from other guests with all groups at least 6 feet apart.
  • In the Howard Drew theatre, a plexiglass barrier will be installed around the perimeter of the stage to provide separation between guests and performers.
  • Productions will not incorporate any physical audience participation.

We reimagined our safety precautions.

  • All audience, staff and volunteers will be required to wear masks. Masks will be available free of charge and must be worn properly in accordance with CDC guidelines.
  • Audience members will be required to self-screen for a fever and symptoms of illness prior to arriving at OCP. Those with fever or other symptoms may exchange their ticket at no cost.
  • New arrival and dismissal procedures will help encourage social distancing, including staggered vehicle loading/unloading, assigned will call pick up times and row-by-row dismissal after a show.
  • Lobbies, reception areas and lines will be arranged and marked to encourage social distancing.
  • Plexiglass barriers will be installed in the box office windows with cash-free payments encouraged, touchless credit card transactions offered and touch-free ticket pickup available.
  • Common areas and performance halls will be cleaned and sanitized on a daily basis with both cleanser and electrostatic technology.
  • All restrooms will be outfitted with touchless fixtures and will be sanitized daily and throughout performances.
  • We will no longer hold post-show meet and greets with the actors in the lobby.
  • Concessions and drinks will not be available and public water fountains will be closed.
  • For a full list of safety precautions, please visit the Omaha Community Playhouse website at omahaplayhouse.com

OCP will continue to evaluate our processes and procedures to ensure we are constantly creating the safest environment possible for our patrons, artists, volunteers and staff. For the most up-to-date information, please visit our website.

The Omaha Community Playhouse has served our community for nearly 100 years. We are confident that with a little (re)imagination, the art will always live on. We hope you enjoy our reimagined 2020/21 season, and we can’t wait to have you back at OCP!

Information for Subscribers:

  • Subscribers may select any regular season production from the new lineup above to replace any canceled productions from their original subscription package.
  • To select a new show for your package, call the OCP Box Office during the Subscriber Presale to reserve tickets to the new show of your choice.
  • New Subscriber Presale dates for all shows will be announced on a rolling basis throughout the season via email and the OCP website.
  • For additional information, please contact the OCP Box Office by phone at (402) 553-0800. For Box Office hours please visit the OCP website at omahaplayhouse.com

Omaha Playhouse Announces 96th Season

Omaha, NE.–The Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP) has announced the titles to be produced during their 96th season, which will run from August 2020 through June 2021. Subscriptions for OCP’s 2020/21 season are now available for purchase through the OCP Box Office at 6915 Cass Street, Omaha, NE 68132, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com.

OMAHA COMMUNITY PLAYHOUSE 2020/21 SEASON PRODUCTIONS

*Billy McGuigan’s Pop Rock Orchestra

Aug. 7–16, 2020

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

Featuring Billy McGuigan | Music Director Steve Gomez | ©2007 by Rave On Productions

Billy McGuigan’s Pop Rock Orchestra is a high-energy concert experience packed with rock ‘n’ roll mega hits from the 50s, 60s and 70s. Led by international touring artist Billy McGuigan and backed by the 14-piece Pop Rock Orchestra, these all-star musicians serve up fresh, original arrangements covering everything from the Beach Boys to Billy Joel, and everything in between.

*Special Event—Not part of the regular season series.

Clybourne Park

Aug. 21–Sept. 20, 2020

Howard Drew Theatre

By Bruce Norris

Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award®-winning comedy Clybourne Park serves as prequel and sequel to A Raisin in the Sun. A 1950s couple faces sharp backlash from neighbors for selling their home in the all-white Clybourne Park to a black family. Fifty years later, a white couple attempts to purchase the same home in the now predominantly black neighborhood, igniting fears of gentrification.

Disclaimer: Contains adult language and themes of racial tension.

Kinky Boots

Sept. 25–Oct. 25, 2020

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

Book by Harvey Fierstein | Music and Lyrics by Cyndi Lauper

Original Broadway Production Directed and Choreographed by Jerry Mitchell

Based on the Miramax motion picture Kinky Boots

Written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth

Flashy, inspiring and downright fun, Kinky Boots is the Tony Award®-winning musical warming hearts around the world. After returning to his hometown to manage his late father’s failing shoe factory, Charlie meets Lola, an outspoken and unapologetic drag queen in need of a sturdy pair of exotic boots. Together, the unlikely pair cobble a heartwarming tale of acceptance and friendship.

Orchestra Sponsor: Woodmen Life

Hawks Series Sponsor: Immanuel Communities

Water by the Spoonful

Oct. 16–Nov. 8, 2020

Howard Drew Theatre

By Quiara Alegría Hudes

Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Water by the Spoonful follows Elliott, an Iraq war vet struggling to care for his dying aunt, and Odessa, a recovering drug addict fighting to stay sober with the support of her online companions. When their two worlds unexpectedly collide, everyone’s progress comes crashing down in this thought-provoking and beautifully human tale.

Disclaimer: Contains adult themes and language.

Presenting Sponsor: Conagra Brands Foundation

*A Christmas Carol

Nov. 20–Dec. 23, 2020

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

Written by Charles Dickens | Adapted by Charles Jones

Musical Orchestration by John J. Bennett

It just isn’t Christmas without A Christmas Carol! Experience Omaha’s favorite holiday tradition as Ebenezer Scrooge takes us on a life-changing journey to discover the true meaning of Christmas. Filled with stunning Victorian costumes, festive music and crisp, wintry sets, A Christmas Carol is a beautiful reminder that love and generosity are the heart of the Christmas holiday.

*Special Event—Not part of the regular season series.

Presenting Sponsor: First National Bank

Artistic Team Sponsor: Omaha Steaks

Orchestra Sponsor: KPMG

Bakery Shoppe/Special Effects Sponsor: Rotella’s Bakery

*Yesterday and Today:  An Interactive Beatles Experience

Nov. 27–Dec. 31, 2020

Howard Drew Theatre

Featuring Billy McGuigan | Music Director Matthew McGuigan | ©2007 by Rave On Productions

Cap off 2020 with a shot of Beatlemania! Yesterday and Today is the smash hit, all-request Beatles show controlled by the audience. Share your favorite stories and relive your fondest memories with the songs that defined a generation. With no two shows the same, fans will be dancing in the aisles and singing along to all their favorite hits.

*Special Event—Not part of the regular season series.

The Miracle Worker

Jan. 15–Feb. 7, 2021

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

By William Gibson

The Miracle Worker is the incredible true story of Helen Keller, deaf and blind since age one, and the extraordinary woman who changed her life. Unable to communicate with their daughter, the Keller family enlists the help of Annie Sullivan, a woman determined to rescue Helen from the dark, tortured silence imprisoning her mind. A story that has inspired audiences for generations.

Hawks Series Sponsor: Immanuel Communities

The Scottsboro Boys

Feb. 12–March 14, 2021

Howard Drew Theatre

Music and Lyrics by John Kander & Fred Ebb

Book by David Thompson

Original Direction and Choreography by Susan Stroman

The Scottsboro Boys follows the wrongful conviction of nine black teenagers in Scottsboro, Alabama in the 1930s—an infamous case that helped ignite the modern civil rights movement. From the composers of Chicago and Cabaret, this 12-time Tony® Award nominee alternates toe-tapping musical numbers with heart-wrenching ballads to tell a harrowing tale of bravery and strength in the face of great adversity.

Disclaimer: Contains themes and language related to racial tension.

In the Heights

Feb. 26–March 21, 2021

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Book by Quiara Alegría Hudes

Before there was Hamilton, there was In the Heights. From the revolutionary musical mind of Lin-Manuel Miranda, this Tony® Award-winning musical recounts three days in the vibrant Latino neighborhood of Washington Heights, NYC, where the Spanish-speaking residents chase American dreams. This bubbly fusion of rap, salsa, Latin pop and soul music boasts an infectious enthusiasm from beginning to end.

Presenting Sponsor: Heider Family Foundation

Producing Partner: Physicians Mutual

Hawks Series Sponsor: Immanuel Communities

*THE CANDY PROJECT PRESENTS:

Gutenberg!  The Musical!

March 18–21, 2021

Howard Drew Theatre

By Anthony King and Scott Brown

Starring Steve Krambeck and Dan Chevalier

Join The Candy Project, friends of OCP, for a special presentation of Gutenberg! The Musical! A pair of aspiring playwrights audition their newest work—a big, splashy musical about the inventor of the printing press—for an audience of potential investors. This two-man musical spoof offers an unending supply of enthusiasm and laughs.

*Special Event—Not part of the regular season series.

Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express

April 16–May 9, 2021

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

Adapted for the stage by Ken Ludwig

A thrilling whodunit set aboard the world’s most famous luxury locomotive, Murder on the Orient Express will keep you guessing until the very end. When the Orient Express becomes stranded by a snow storm, a passenger is found stabbed to death in his private room. With the murderer still on board, a detective must solve the crime before the train reaches its destination.

Producing Partner: UNMC

Hawks Series Sponsor: Immanuel Communities

Outside Mullingar

May 7–30, 2021

Howard Drew Theatre

By John Patrick Shanley

This charming romantic comedy follows Anthony and Rosemary, two introverts who grew up on neighboring farms in rural Ireland. Rosemary secretly fell in love with Anthony at age six, but after a bought with heartbreak, Anthony swore off women forever. The now middle-aged pair must overcome their own aloofness—as well as a family property dispute—to find their way to one another.

Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka

May 28–June 27, 2021

Hawks Mainstage Theatre

Music and Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley

Adapted for the Stage by Leslie Bricusse and Timothy Allen McDonald

Based on the Book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Oompa-Loompa-Doom-Pa-Dee-Doo! We’ve got a family favorite for you! Grab your golden ticket as Willy Wonka takes your family on a whimsical tour of the chocolate factory—with Charlie Bucket, Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, and all of your favorite characters. Featuring songs from the hit film, Willy Wonka will open up a world of pure imagination.

Presenting Sponsor: Mutual of Omaha

Orchestra Sponsor: Kiewit

Hawks Series Sponsor: Immanuel Communities

Pardon Me, Boys, is that the Murdering Choo-Choo?

A shady businessman is found murdered in his locked sleeping compartment on the Orient Express.  Will the famed Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, be able to solve the mystery with his formidable “little gray cells” or has he finally met a killer too cunning for him?  Find out in Murder On the Orient Express adapted by Ken Ludwig from a novel written by Agatha Christie.  It is currently playing at the Bellevue Little Theatre.

It’s awfully hard to write about the plot without being too spoilery so I’ll simply say that Ludwig does an admirable job hitting the essential points of the classic mystery.  With his involvement, I was expecting more of a comedy, but Ludwig plays this script surprisingly straight, though he does leave room open for a bit of over the topness with some of the characters.  The mash-up of comedy and drama weaken the first act slightly, but he sticks the ending on the second act as he seems to have decided to be almost totally dramatic with that act.

Todd Uhrmacher provides a solid piece of direction for the production, handling the dual natures of comedy and drama in the first act quite well and excelling with the nearly purely dramatic second act.  I liked the staging of his show as he placed his actors well in the cramped confines of the train without the actors ever seeming bunched up or blocking each other.  Uhrmacher guided his actors to well-defined performances as each imbued a distinct character.

Some enjoyable performances were supplied by Michael Taylor-Stewart who comes off as somewhat off-kilter and creepy as the secretary of the murder victim and Gene Hinkle as the genial CEO of the company that owns the Orient Express.  But Jeff Garst deserves special notice for an exceptional performance as the conductor, Michel.  He gives Michel a very efficient nature and he nails a brief, heart-wrenching moment at the show’s finale.

Jon Flower is an extremely worthy Hercule Poirot.  He has a firm grip on the sleuth with a flawless Belgian accent, well communicating Poirot’s genius with his deductions, displaying a very gentlemanly and cultured nature, and demonstrating Poirot’s fastidious personality with the care he gives to Poirot’s signature moustache.  Flower also brings a certain weightiness to Poirot who has to wrestle with a choice between his devotion to the law and his dedication to justice which, for the first time in his career, may not be one and the same.

D. Laureen Pickle is utterly obnoxious as Mrs. Hubbard. Almost from the get-go one begins looking for a muzzle to clamp shut the mouth of the man-hungry, stuck-up, grating American snob. Pickle plays this character slightly over the top, but always keeps it in the realm of believability.  She also deftly handles the character’s more dramatic moments when certain secrets begin to come to light.

I don’t think Joey Lorincz could design a bad set even if he was working blindfolded.  He has created one of the most ambitious sets I’ve seen on the Bellevue stage with a three room revolving set that shows an elegant dining room, an office/rear of the train, and the tiny, sleeping compartments one would expect to find on a train.  Lorincz does double duty on lights which were also quite effective, especially the dark blue of the recalling of clues during the denouement.  Todd Urhmacher also pulls double duty with his designing of the costumes which evoke memories of the 1930s with the elegant dresses of the ladies and the snappy suits of the men and the classic conductor’s tunic for Michel.  My program lacked a credit for sound effects, but liked the sounds of the train whistle and the rumble of the wheels on the track.

I thought the pace of the first act could have had a snappier pace and there were a few moments when speaking actors were in darkness.  Volume and projection could have been a bit stronger on the parts of some of the actors and accents were a bit of a mixed bag.

Ultimately, this show is a very pleasant theatre experience with the combination of a faithful telling of a legendary mystery and compelling characters making for a respite from the real world for a few hours.

Murder On the Orient Express plays at Bellevue Little Theatre through Feb 2.  Showtimes are 7:30pm Fri-Sat and 2pm on Sundays.  Tickets cost $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, and $10 for students.  Tickets can be obtained at bellevuelittletheatre.weebly.com or calling 402-291-1554 during the hours of 10am-4pm Mon-Sat.  Bellevue Little Theatre is located at 203 W Mission Ave in Bellevue, NE.

BLT Wants You to Take Part in a Murder

Bellevue Little Theatre presents
Murder on the Orient Express Auditions

Sunday, November 3 @ 7:00 pm
Monday, November 4 @ 7:00 pm

Location:  Ralston Performing Arts Centre (8989 Park Dr in Ralston, NE)

Interested parties need only attend one day of auditions, so please feel free to select the date that is most convenient for you.  Actors will be asked to read from the script.  No prior work with the text is required.

Rehearsals will begin on November 17
Performance Dates: January 17 – February 2, 2020
Performances are Fri., Sat. evenings at 7:30 and Sunday afternoons at 2 pm.

Cast requirements are:
Number of male characters: 5
Number of female characters: 5

Hercule Poirot
Monsieur Bouc
Mary Debenham
Hector MacQueen
Michel the conductor
Princess Dragomiroff
Greta Ohlsson
Countess Andrenyi
Helen Hubbard
Colonel Arbuthnot
Samuel Ratchett (doubles with the Colonel)
Head Waiter (doubles with Michel)

Synopsis:
Just after midnight, a snowdrift stops the Orient Express in its tracks. The luxurious train is surprisingly full for the time of the year, but by the morning it is one passenger fewer. An American tycoon lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. Isolated and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must identify the murderer – in case he or she decides to strike again.

Director: Todd Uhrmacher

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.

A Most Unique Perspective

A teenager on the autism spectrum decides to investigate the murder of his neighbor’s dog.  His investigation leads to the discovery of an even weightier mystery and his investigation into that case may lead those closest to him to a remarkable discovery about him.  This is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time adapted by Simon Stephens from Mark Haddon’s novel and is playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

To be up front, this is not a play about autism.  This is a play about family, trust, and love whose central character just happens to be on the autism spectrum (likely Asperger’s Syndrome).  I haven’t read the novel though, from the play, I suspect the book is also told from the point of view of the central character, Christopher Boone.  As such, Stephens’ adaptation creates one of the most original plays I have ever seen.  Not only is it a rock solid story, but it also allows the audience to vividly see just how Christopher processes information through writing and truly innovative staging that bring his internal processes to life.

Kimberly Faith Hickman has worked wonders with the show.  Her direction is nimble and nuanced.  Her cast virtually flawless.  But the real key to this show is its staging so the audience is able to see things through Christopher’s eyes.  Rest assured, Ms Hickman hits the bullseye with her staging through the use of silhouetted voices as Christopher recalls memories;  through the cast carrying Christopher around and flipping him over as he imagines himself an astronaut; through the duality of Siobhan reading about Christopher’s experiences while we watch Christopher living the experiences and see exactly how he behaved and reacted.

The supporting cast is exceptional and admirably fills out the people Christopher runs across in his adventures as well as the voices of memory inside his head.  Exemplary performances came from Julie Fitzgerald Ryan as Siobhan, Christopher’s teacher and, arguably, one true friend who encourages his writing and helps him better cope with the rules of society; Daniel Luethke as a pair of kindly policemen who try to help Christopher and a friendly reverend whose faith butts heads with Christopher’s logic and atheism; and Silvia Conley as the motherly Mrs. Alexander who attempts to befriend Christopher and ends up providing crucial clues that lead Christopher to an even deeper mystery than the death of his neighbor’s dog.

The role of Christopher Boone is a meaty, difficult part to play.  Due to its level of challenge, it is often played by young adults pretending to be the 15 year old.  That being said, Kimberly Faith Hickman played a gamble casting the 12 year old Dominic Torres in the role.  That gamble hits the jackpot.

Torres rises to the challenge of this arduous part and nails the characterization to the floor.  The character has similar traits and qualities to Sherlock Holmes to whom the play’s title subtly references.  Like Holmes, Christopher has genius level intellect, a keen eye for detail, and a rude, unfriendly nature.

Torres imbues all of these qualities into his character as well as having a solid grip on the tics and behavior patterns of a person with Asperger’s Syndrome such as his lack of eye contact with people, the blank facial expressions, the awkward poses he assumes with his hands and legs, the monotone quality to his voice, and the inability to articulate frustration.  He possesses an excellent sense of timing and handled the difficult wordplay well.  He just needs to slow down his rate of speech so chunks of dialogue are not lost.

Mike Palmreuter gives a weighty performance as Ed Boone, Christopher’s father.  Palmreuter well communicates the difficulties of a single father raising a son with special needs.  He clearly loves Christopher and has well adapted to his son’s needs such as touching fingers instead of hugs due to Christopher’s dislike of being touched.  But he also displays a lot of doubt as to Christopher’s ability to function in society as he tries to dissuade him from his investigation into the dog’s death and worries when he must leave Christopher alone.  Palmreuter’s slumped posture says more about the weight on his shoulders more than the wonderful dialogue he speaks.

Kerri Forrester provides a good yang to Palmreuter’s yin.  As Christopher’s mother, Judy, Ms Forrester’s body language communicates a longing that Christopher was like other children.  She clearly wants to be able to hug Christopher and hold his hand, but will never experience that joy due to Christopher’s different way of living.  Ms Forrester’s eyes have a deep sadness to them when she realizes that she will never be able to make the emotional breakthroughs that her husband has when it comes to parenting Christopher.

Steven Williams and Chris Wood team up for a deceptively simple looking set that is a boxed grid, but pulses with lights and colors to express scene changes and emotional beats.  Jay Hanson and John Gibilisco join forces for a little music and sound effects from the zapping effects of the flashing lights to the light dings as the background lights assume new Tetris shapes to the crowd noises of subway and railroad stations.  Lindsey Pape’s costumes convey the blue collar nature of the Boone family as well as Christopher’s fixations with the nearly identical clothes he wears and the everyday outfits of the everyday people in the show.

As I said earlier, this is not a story about a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome.  It’s a story about family and, truly, about seeing things from a different point of view.  I think the best way to sum up this play is from a Sherlock Holmes quotation, “Circumstantial evidence is a very tricky thing.  It may seem to point very straight to one thing, but if you shift your own point of view a little, you may find it pointing. . .to something entirely different.”

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time runs at the Omaha Community Playhouse through Feb 10.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets start at $28.  For tickets, contact the OCP box office at 402-553-0800 or visit www.ticketomaha.com.  Due to adult language, this show is not recommended for children.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.