OCONTO, Wis. (WFRV) – Everybody who lurks into Nick’s Café in North Africa in 1942 is suspicious. Secrets are everywhere about the mysterious monastery in the distance. Something’s up, though nobody is sure quite what, except that no one should be trusted.

With that setup for the play “Cloak and Dagger,” opportunities to climb into oddball comical characters abound. It’s why director Susie Mozey picked the Craig Sodaro spoof for The Machickanee Players – for community actors to be playful, have fun acting and create some laughs for an audience.

The takeoff of the classic movie “Casablanca” is another step back from the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic for the troupe.

The production comes with a pre-performance statement, as Friday night. Greg Holbus of the troupe told of the troupe’s goals – to feed the need for the arts in the community, to expand the experiences in troupe’s theater and to improve the facility.

“We are committed, we are scrappy, but we could use more people,” he said as an invitation to participate in the enrichment the place can bring.

For starters, he told the audience he had a little part in the show. Turns out, Greg Holbus was kidding, just like his focal character of Nick is all the way through the story. Nick has lippy comebacks for what others say, and then Greg Holbus gives the audience a knowing glance.

Some bits turn around Nick’s constant lighting up of cigarette after cigarette (not smoked on stage). A prime moment in the running gag is one of the secretive sorts seems to be handing Nick something really important. It’s a tin of breath mints.

And so that sort of humor runs through “Cloak and Dagger,” along with tossing in all sorts of name-dropping. There’s mention of “Bogie and Bacall” – Humphrey Bogart of “Casablanca” and Lauren Bacall, his equally starful wife. The line, “We’re just a couple of enigmas” is a reference to the Enigma code machine that the American’s busted. One character is a British MP, tailor made for an inside joke for a character being a “Member of Parliament” and being portrayed by M.P. – Myrna Peil.

The players try their hand at a bunch of accents found around Nick’s Café – French, German, Russian.

Nick is told by a fortune teller (Tammie McCarthy) to watch out for someone in a cloak, who would be carrying a dagger. Being a farce, of course five women show up wearing a cloak – a jewel thief (Andrea Maxwell), a wannabe singing star (Hayley Nerat), a Texas gold digger (Lynn Hollander), the MP on a mission (Myrna Peil) and Nick’s long-lost love (Leigh Moore).

In the mix are a snarly spy and a British dandy (both played by Jennifer Warpehoski-Fulcher), a Russian jeweler after his stolen goods (Patrick Mines) and Nick’s dutiful assistant (Susie Mozey, doing double duty in acting and directing).

Action kind of bumps along, but the players clearly are enjoying the ride in the clownish wagon. So “Cloak and Dagger” is fun.

The set work is economical. One interesting thing is how the atmosphere of Nick’s Café is created simply with an artistic wall hanging and the addition of a Moorish look of a looping fringe on the top of walls.

Scrappy, indeed.


Running time: One hour, 57 minutes.

Remaining performances: 6 p.m. May 21 (dinner show) and 2 p.m. May 22 (pie show)

Info: themachickaneeplayers.org

Creative: Playwright – Craig Sodaro; director – Susie Mozey; assistant director – Jahn Mozey; set design, building – Rich Gillette, Leigh Moore, Jenny Warpehoski-Fulcher; lights and sound – Michael Hollander; stage manager – Kyle Patrick; costumes and props – Lynn Hollander, Andrea Maxwell, Tammie McCarthy, Patrick Mines, Leigh Moore, Crystal Moureau, Myrna Peil

Cast (in order of appearance):

Nick – Greg Holbus

Zigfried (Ziggy) Bruner – Susie Mozey

Mr. Lee – Jennifer Warpehoski-Fulcher

Mirella – Tammie McCarthy

Natalie Romanoff – Andrea Maxwell

Dimitri Andropov – Patrick Mines

Chantele Chanson – Hayley Nerat

Reggie Beresford-Hyde – Jennifer Warpekoski-Fulcher

Sissy Blaine – Lynn Hollander

Lady Henrietta Harrington – Myrna Peil

Lola Malone – Leigh Moore


NEXT: Concert by Abigail Nygren, June 4.

Hallway display of past productions of The Machickanee Players. (Warren Gerds)

THE VENUE: Park Avenue Playhouse is located at 408 Park Ave. in Oconto. According to rootsweb.ancestry.com, the building was originally St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, built in 1869. It is of Greek revival architecture style. According to rootsweb.ancestry.com, the building became St. Mark’s Guild Hall when a stone church was built on the corner to the south in 1900. The stone building was razed in the 1990s. The wood-frame building was placed on the National Register of Historic Buildings in 1985. The hall building was purchased by Jim Nerenhausen of Neroco Engineering and Manufacturing of Oconto and gifted to the Machickanee Players. The interior includes a raised stage, a wooden floor seating area with tables for eight and a capacity of around 80. On the edges of the hall are a control room, box office, coat room, concessions window and doorway to rest rooms. The south wall includes photographs of past productions. The 12-foot-high Roman-arch windows that perhaps once held stained glass, are decoratively covered.