The Holiday Island Theatre Guild ended a three night run of Tom Oldendick's and Will Roberson's comedy, Knock 'Em Dead last Saturday night--and it was triumph. The cast was especially entertaining, and the sold-out house rocked with laughter during each performance. Knock 'Em Dead is an absolutely dreadful play and everyone--cast and audience alike--made it into a great Community Theatre experience.
Broadly sketched, a group of performers gather at Vinnie's Belly Laugh Club to compete in a talent contest. Along the way, Vinnie, played by Ron Blasucci, gets murdered. The suspects include the assembled performers who are grilled by Hal Brown, a local gumshoe who has been investigating Vinnie for running a numbers game. Jokes ensue, insults fly, motives evolve, the case is solved.
A great thing about community theatre is that it shows the truth of G.K. Chesterton's claim that "anything worth doing is worth doing badly." By saying that, Chesterton praised amateurs, and people who do things because they love doing them. For him, it would a supreme irony that we pay athletes millions of dollars a year to play games that we would have far more fun playing ourselves. Along the same lines, he encouraged us to sing our own songs, act in our own plays, and to write our own poems. Many thanks to the Holiday Island Theatre Guild who, since 1989, have been lively bearers of that great amateur tradition.
Mark Mallett, who played the copper investigating Vinnie's murder, functioned essentially as the play's stage manager. He moved characters into and out of bits, dryly commented on their foibles and artistic aspirations, and invited audience participation in the murder's solution. He did so ably, and with bemused nimbleness.
The play's director, Boyd Darling, also played "Ian" Wayne, the cross dressing partner to Fluffy the "Wonder Dog." No matter how you slice it, most men wearing women's underwear are funny, and Darling, who certainly appeared to enjoy being a girl, was hysterically funny as he pranced across the stage. If there was a star performance, it was certainly Darling's.
On an entirely different level was the performance of Bill Ott. Most local theatre goers are familiar with Ott's work, and they can expect a seasoned, professional job in any role that he undertakes. As The Great Somnambulo, Ott was a credible, comic villain, always funny, and always on target. It is always a pleasure to see him work.
The surprise performance was Colleen Shogren's Bamby "with a Y". Described in the script as "an over the hill cheerleader," Shogren added a daffy, Betsy Wetsy sexiness to what was otherwise a venerable and decidedly mature casting adventure. In a role that Judy Holliday or Carol Kane might relish, Shogren made the audience laugh out loud at Bamby's sheer outrageousness. What was most notable about her performance was how consistently she stayed in character: even during periods when she was not "on", Shogren stole scene after scene with her simultaneously vacant and enthralled attention to the events unfolding on stage.
Val Blasucci, Jim Morris, and the very funny and subtle performance by Vicky Vander Horn, contributed to the merriment and to the "surprise" ending. Ron Blasucci, as Vinnie, was entirely convincing as a dead person.
Knock 'Em Dead was produced by Clare Kelley, sets by Boyce Williams, program by Arvest Bank.