"The Play's the Thing" Feb. - March 1983
By Ferenc Molnar, Adapted by P. G. Wodehouse
Directed by LaRayne Watts, Technical Director Bill Davis
It was the winter of 1983. The first season of plays in the new Driftwood Theatre, "off Broadway", in Aberdeen, was barely underway. The third show of the season was off to a shaky start. The play was a farce witch relied on split-second timing and ensemble acting. The show was P. G. Wodehouse's adaptation of a Ferenc Molnar comedy called The Play's The Thing. Even though the cast was packed with seasoned and talented actors (among them Ernie Ingram, Dave Savage, Nina Morean and Gary Morean), the pivotal character, the young male lead, was being played by an untested and inexperienced actor. His only prior stage experience was a small part in a Grays Harbor College production.
The young male lead had shown a distinct aversion to punctuality throughout rehearsals and had continued this habit during the performances. He often arrived less than an hour before curtain time; a no-no in amateur theatre. One fateful night (Friday, March 4, 1983), the male lead failed to show up for a performance. No one knew where he was, he did not answer his phone and, as we later discovered, no one had seen him since Wednesday afternoon when he "left town on a trip".
Art Blauvelt, a Driftwood actor and local lawyer, was called at his home in Montesano at 7:30 p.m. that night and asked if he had any plans for the evening. The legend, which has grown up among the Driftwood faithful, says that Art arrived at the theatre and had his makeup put on, his costume checked (they all fit perfectly), reviewed the script and the general layout of the furniture on the set, put on a tuxedo and lit a cigarette in time to join Ingram and Savage on stage, puffing on cigarettes in unison, as the curtain went up at 8:15 p.m. (on time).
Blauvelt carried the script with him and read all the lines throughout the Friday and Saturday performances. He was, however, so inconspicuous in reading his lines that had we not warned the audience of the last minute change in the cast, they may have never noticed. If it were not for the fact that Ingram and other actors were constantly grabbing him by the arm to move him to the appropriate locations called for in the blocking of the play, no one would have been the wiser.
By the following weekend of performances, Blauvelt had memorized the entire part and needed little assistance with any portion of the performance. The moral of this tale, is the same as in any theatre anywhere in the world: The show must go on!
Oh yes, the young male lead. Well, we never heard from him again. He has never been back in the theatre as far as any of us can tell. Rumor has it that while Blauvelt was nervously suiting up to do the part that first Friday evening, that our young missing male lead was cooling his heals in jail somewhere in the southwestern United States.
From The Daily World Thursday, February 24, 1983
Everyone -- playwrights, actors and servants -- in "The Play's the Thing" is far too sophisticated for the old pie-in-the-face or pratfall comedy routines.
But the actors in the Driftwood Players' production of the Ferenc Molnar-P.G. Wodehouse comedy use words for the same slapstick effect, cunningly manipulating the language, throwing great gobs of dialogue with gusto, reacting with exaggerated emotion.
The result: the same kind of boffo laughs that slapstick used to produce, at a great saving of custard pie.
The comedy opened last weekend in the Driftwood Theater and will show again on Friday and Saturday nights through March 12, plus Thursday night, March 10.
Ernie Ingram, with the same aplomb he has demonstrated in so many different roles, carries the weight of the plot as the cynical but good-hearted, extraordinary inventive playwright Sandor Tural.
He must set the scenes of the play, and then set everything right with a play-within-a-play after one of those incidents so beloved of comedy writers from Shakespeare on down the centuries: lovers overhear something not intended for their ears, and draw the wrong (or at least the most troublesome) conclusions.
Nina Morean, the only woman in the cast, carries off with fine flair the role of an exceedingly dramatic actress, and the role of her exceedingly dramatic one-time lover is played with (you should pardon the expression) gut busting comedy effect by Jim Watts.
Their third-act "play" has lines flying like custard pies, as Watts' pompous actor wrestles with lines written for him by Tural, who likes him not at all and has chosen a subtle revenge.
Mike Munson provides some of the best comic effects with his impossibly correct butler Dwornitschek, while Gary Morean demonstrates his versatility after several "hero" roles for Driftwood by playing a prissy, handkerchief-waving male secretary.
Dave Savage does well as the playwright's slightly-obtuse collaborator; James Vaughn is appealing as an idealistic young composer in love with the actress, and young Matt Foscue is a well-trained lackey, a miniature copy of Munson's butler.
The play has been directed with style by LaRayne Watts.
Tickets for the play are available at the Rexall Drug Stores in Aberdeen, Hoquiam and Montesano.
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