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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘The Bickersons’ feisty as ever in New London

Critic At Large

Wally Schmidt and Mickey Schmidt in a scene from “The Bickersons” online for Wolf River Theatrical Troupe. (Warren Gerds screenshot)

NEW LONDON, Wis. (WFRV) – The scene is a bedroom.

In the bed in a nightgown is a wife, seated and propped with pillows behind her.

Next to the bed in a robe and other nightwear is the husband.

Their conversation is filled with barbs.

Wife: “You said you’d have one drink and be home by 10.”

Husband: “So I had 10 drinks and got home at 1.”

And so it goes with John and Blanche Bickerson.

The story behind the couple is a bit of a maze.

In the waning heyday of radio, “The Bickersons” was a popular show from 1946 to 1951. Starring were Frances Langford and Don Ameche – Ameche being one of Wisconsin’s famed actors on radio, TV, Broadway and film.

“The Bickersons” had a certain style: Insult comedy.

Now, it’s back – with multiple purposes.

Providing a window on the verbal Punch-and-Judy show is Wolf River Theatrical Troupe in an online presentation with a large assist from the City of New London and technical direction by Casey Zempel.

Performing for Wolf River Theatrical Troupe are local couple Wally and Mickey Schmidt, directed by Ernie Anderson.

As in radio plays, the animated Schmidts read from scripts as the characters John and Blanche Bickerson have at each other with verbal teasing, taunting and tongue-lashing, always with a joke (of a kind) around the corner.

The online, 14-minute presentation – at https://www.facebook.com/cityofnl/videos/4097254567000150/ and theater’s Facebook page – serves to promote the New London theater.

Margie Brown speaks of Wolf River Theatrical Troupe being in its 39th year. Margie Brown would know because she founded the community theater.

The troupe re-started live in-person performances over the weekend with a Neil Diamond tribute act in the troupe’s home in downtown New London. Next for live, in-person performances is “Steel Magnolias” at 7 p.m. June 3-5 and 10-11 and 2 p.m. June 12. Margie Brown notes the theater has gone to online ticketing at wrtt.org.

In January, the City of New London website gave a boost to the theater by producing another radio play, going to the annals of “Fibber McGee and Molly”(my review) with another local cast.

There have been many new, inventive things under the sun as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bickersons’ bedroom bantering on a municipality’s Facebook page as a show of support is among them.

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