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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘Every Little Crook and Nanny’ built for laughs in Wittenberg

Critic At Large

Crossroads Community Theatre

Nancy Pehlke, from left, Samantha Smith, Owen Spiegel (seated), Lisa Walkush (cap), Kristine Spiegel, Paul Pehlke, Dawn Meverden, Dan Young, Mike Gilbertson, director Miriam Nelson and Lois Anderson pose after a performance of the Crossroads Community Theatre production of “Every Little Crook and Nanny.” (Warren Gerds)


Just from the title, it is clear that ‘Every Little Crook and Nanny’ is a for-the-fun-of-it play.

A bank heist is in the works – that is the “Crook” part of the title.

And some nannies are involved – the “Every Little… Nanny” parts of the title.

And stuff is going to get messed up and confused – a requirement for a play called “Every Little Crook and Nanny.”

Crossroads Community Theatre today, Saturday, Oct. 26, is finishing a two-weekend run of the comedy by Pat Cook. Pat Cook cranks out light-hearted plays like McDonald’s does burgers, built to taste.

Comic lines start right away. Two women, Carmella Dundee (Kristine Spiegel) and Jocelyn Minnow (Dawn Meverden) are listening to music, and one mentions a gift accordion. Chatting between the two leads to a joke about how the accordion was put to its best use: Being made into a lamp.

The women are visiting their best friend, Lillie, in her boarding house. Lillie has adopted a cat with a thyroid condition that makes it HUGE and mean as it rules the kitchen. While never seen, the CAT is a running joke in the story, especially because one of the crooks is allergic to cats and stays out of the kitchen at all costs.

Directed by Miriam Nelson, this play is primarily playful, although Lillie makes statements about ageism along the way.

As Lillie, Lois Anderson is nimble and comfortable in performance. In the story, one of her “charges” from her years as a teacher, Stu Benchley (Mike Gilbertson), has come to rent a room. Stu was a rascal as a youth – and still is. He has “cased the joint” – Lillie’s place, so to speak – and it is perfect for his plan to rob the nearby bank. Stu has a partner in crime, Pat Turgesson (Dan Young), who has the cat allergy.

Lillie already has one boarder, Teddy Hitchell (Paul Pehlke), whose fiancé, Betty Collins (Lisa Walkush), is days away from graduating from “the academy.”

Stu has a way with words that Betty really likes – wink, wink – despite Teddy’s stated intentions to marry Betty.

A play called “Every Little Crook and Nanny” should have two briefcases that look exactly alike and a mischievous kid, Gerald Sims (Owen Spiegel), to stick his nose into places it doesn’t belong… and be important in the plot.

The production has a certain atmosphere – breezy entertainment. The amateur actors – some more veteran than others – feed on the laughter and goofiness of the story.

At intermission, cookies and soft drinks are offered for free – “just something we do,” Miriam Nelson tells the audience.

Also at intermission, prizes are given out to ticket holders whose names are drawn at random. Given are such things as a plastic hand-clapper gizmo – like for applause at a play – get it? And a can of tuna – like for a cat – get it?

Such is the spirit of Crossroad Community Theatre.


Creative: Playwright – Pat Cook; director – Miriam Nelson; director’s assistants – Kimberly Timm, Kathy Prahl; stage manager – Nancy Pehlke; sound effects – Jan Young; props – Olde Dime Store; producer – Walls of Wittenberg

Cast (in order of appearance):

Carmella Dundee – Kristine Spiegel

Jocelyn Minnow – Dawn Meverden

Lillie Scones – Lois Anderson

Teddy Hitchell – Paul Pehlke

Betty Collins – Lisa Walkush (understudy: Tayla Spiegel)

Stu Benchley – Mike Gilbertson

Pat Turgesson – Dan Young

Gerald Sims – Owen Spiegel

Chief Danika Collins – Samantha Smith

Susan Sims – Nancy Pehlke

Running time: One hour, 35 minutes

Remaining performance: 7 p.m. Oct. 26

Info: wallsofwittenberg.com/community-events/


VENUE: WOWSPACE is a multi-purpose community building at 114 Vinal St. in downtown Wittenberg that has had many lives since it was constructed prior to 1884. Among other things, the building with large store-front windows has been a clothing store, a pharmacy and a grocery store – and since 2006 has been owned by Walls of Wittenberg, Inc. The “Walls” refers to more than two dozen murals that adorn Wittenberg buildings as part of the organization’s projects. Basically, the first-floor interior of the two-story WOWSPACE is open. Flooring is wood, walls are shades of tan and the ornate tin ceiling is white, with three ceiling light globes of frosted glass. For “Every Little Crook and Nanny,” the performance space is set up in a large alcove (windows covered) opposite a seating area for 90 on padded chairs on risers. Lighting for the play is what is available in track lights and house lights. The space overall is airy, bright and inviting.

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