Oct 08, 2013 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
Anything can happen in “Any Number Can Die.”
Owls hoot, thunder howls, lights flicker and lives are lost due to gunshots, poison, hanging and stabbing. But don’t let that constant violence spoil your evening at the theater. It’s all in good fun, as the stage play soundly satirizes every murder mystery you’ve ever read or seen.
The campy comedy by Vermont’s prolific and playful playwright, Fred Carmichael, is being staged through Oct. 13 by the Baldwinsville Theatre Guild.
Set on a deserted island off the coast of the Carolinas in 1928, the plot reunites a handful of unfriendly family members who gather to hear the midnight reading of a will written by their very wealthy and thoroughly dead uncle.
In Carmichael’s script, this hackneyed premise is saved by broad dollops of humor, including visual absurdities such as wild wigs, a pasted-on mustache, copious cobwebs, a moveable rat sculpture and a cute-as-a-teddy-bear owl that oversees all the action.
The cast of 10 — directed by longtime BTG actor-director John LaCasse — rises to every occasion, including romantic rendezvous, disrespectful disagreements and a drove of death scenes. While the ensemble gels to wring every laugh possible out of Carmichael’s dialogue, one performer stood out noticeably.
Kitty Doupe, who has played bit parts in previous BTG productions, raises the ante here as Zenia, a West Indian servant girl supposedly married to a loathsome, limping butler convincingly portrayed by Harlow Kisselstein.
With her big brown eyes and her subtle Creole accent entrancing the audience, Doupe’s Zenia utters ominous lines like “Evil is more potent than electricity.” Regardless of the dialogue she delivers, Doupe naturally dominates the action with a sturdy stage presence which is both sensual and spooky. BTG producers take note: this lady is ready for a lead role!
Zenia’s colorful threads are one of the many triumphs of costumer Anne Gray, who clad the cast in 1920s finery such as mink stoles, smoking jackets, ascots and taffeta gowns. To emphasize Zenia’s Haitian roots, Gray dresses her in a bright, sky-blue dress with a red hibiscus pattern offset by a pink, fringed shawl wrapped casually around her waist and topped off by a blue bandanna skullcap. An array of white-gold jewelry completes the enchanting ensemble.
Since Zenia goes barefoot beneath it all, does it mean something more when she says, “Evil is afoot”? She also warns, “Beware of everyone and everything,” but if you’re willing to chance it, you may be rewarded with an evening of unexpected laughter.
The cast also features the lovely Rachel Grage as a ditzy dipsomaniac, George Glaski as an officious attorney, Jon Wright as a hen-pecked husband, Rachel Lees as a damsel in distress, Josh Wright as a conceited college boy and Brendan O’Toole as a nosy newsman.
BTG veteran Jon Barden plays a Sherlock Holmes wannabe who teams up with an Agatha Christie wannabe played by Patricia Walz, as the daffy duo attempt to solve the increasingly complex case.
Toward the end of Act 3, Josh Wright’s pompous frat-boy declares, “This is preposterous!” But that’s the whole point! In this case, preposterous is good.
“Any Number Can Die,” produced by Patrick Bridenbaker, continues at the First Presbyterian Education Center, 64 Oswego St., at 8 p.m. Oct. 11 and 12; a single matinee is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13. Tickets cost $15, $13 for students, and $13 for seniors at the Oct. 13 matinee only; 877-8465; baldwinsvilletheatreguild.org.