BAILEYS HARBOR, Wis. (WFRV) – Peninsula Players Theatre closed out its anomaly season of play readings Monday night with three stories. Two of the stories were as advertised, and the third was in the “advertisements.”
Everything was wrapped in the illusion of being thrown back into the heyday of radio plays.
In our house, my mother didn’t allow any of the horror shows. “Who knows what evil lurks in the mind of man” was the come-on line for one of the series. We had to listen to drivel around “her” stories of goody two shoes Dr. Christian. “Fibber McGee and Molly” was okay, for the laughs. “The Thin Man” was on, but that was too grown up for my brothers and me.
Monday night by way of Peninsula Players Theatre and Chicago Radio Theatre, instead of listening in the living room with the lights out, the mode was via computer with character names popping onto the screen as they spoke.
In normal winters, Peninsula Players Theatre gathers crowds at Bjorklunden lodge for its live “The Play’s the Thing” offerings. Monday night, the show was recorded live someplace else.
The production teamed Peninsula Players Theatre and Chicago Radio Theatre actors, with Kevin Fox of the latter directing.
Playing Dashiell Hammett’s loving private-eye couple, Nick and Nora Charles, were Linda Fortunato and Ric Walker.
Portraying everybody else were Allison Selby Cook, Mike Jimerson, foley artist Ele Matelan and Greg Vinkler.
Afterwards, I wiped the froth from my computer.
In “The Case of the Goofy Groom,” a wedding is at hand, complete with gunfire. Somebody’s trying to plug the groom, Arthur. He wonders if it has something to do “with all the money Dad left me.”
Everything was overplayed by design. This was Theatre Lite.
One character is a tootsie called Bingo, “because I’m a fresh number.”
Another character is Snakey, or, as he says, “S-S-S-Snakey. He gets plugged… and plugged some more. He takes his time – “Ahhh… “Ahhh”… “Ahhh”… before dying. He even has a complaint along the way about all the plugging: “This seems excessive.”
The second play was “The Valentine’s Day Episode.” Crime-boss Bill Carroll, who Nick put in the slammer supposedly forever, manages to escape prison so as to put the hurt on Nick.
At the climax, Bill Carroll has the goods on – pointing a gun at – Nick, Nora and a police sergeant. Is everyone dead to rights? The writers had to pull the ending out of thin air with this one.
Much of the fun with these plays is hearing how adaptable the professional actors are in their voicings. They get to play a whole collage of characters, without make-up or costume changes!
Ric Walker interpreted Nick Charles his way – more as a tough guy than a dashing gent.
Other stuff was going on with this production.
One gambit had to do the illusion that two separate casts of actors from Peninsula Players Theatre in Door County were driving to Chicago to put on the plays. Lo and behold, the second cast got caught in a snowstorm around Denmark. Sooo, the initial cast performed in both plays.
The big joke of the evening had to do with the “commercials” spotted between the acts. They told a story by themselves, all tongue-in-cheek:
Scarlet is the voice of the ad person (back when in radio-play days, we were allowed say “ad lady”). Sweet-voiced Scarlet visits Door County Cider and Sweaters in Ellison Bay, Door County Soups and Sweaters in Fish Creek, Door County Sundries and Sweaters in no place special, Door County Smoked Salmon and Sweaters in Gills Rock and Door County Suds and Sweaters. All the establishments are owned by Carl (with a Scandinavian-sound last name). Along the way in each ad, Carl is putting the hit on Scarlet. The last ad is for Cinnamon and Carl, and Scarlet finds that’s just the kind of spice in life she’s looking for.
And so Peninsula Players Theatre’s coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic anomaly ended – throwback adventures of the mind.
Many people – me included – would not have driven to limited-capacity Bjorklunden lodge to catch a one-and-done performance. This way, the plays were accessible at home as a kind of spice in life.