Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Hollywood Who Done It

Vanessa Postil as Miss Tenor and Gabe Hacker as Eli James

The comical murder mystery Hollywood Who Done It is the brainchild of Dennis Rolly, producer, with script by Christian Doyle and direction by Tim Samland, with a large helping of the crème de la crème of Olympia theater folk who have come together to help Pellegrino’s Italian Restaurant in Tumwater celebrate its 10th anniversary. It’s the first of what will hopefully be many dinner theater events there.

Rob Taylor as Hamilton
We arrived a little before 6 p.m. on opening night and were escorted to our table where before-dinner drinks were served (wine with dinner is included but before-dinner drinks are extra). Patrons had a choice of chicken, beef or vegetarian dinners. We had the eggplant parmesan with potatoes and asparagus, nicely prepared with good sized portions and a nice bottle of red wine. 

The Black Hills High School Jazz Combo entertained before the show and during dinner.

Robert McConkey as Kent Ryder, photos by Michael Christopher
The play begins at 8 p.m. It is not a great play, but it is a good play, a farcical mystery with a lot of slapstick comedy — I do wish the slapstick could be played up even more. Hollywood Who Done It is skillfully shepherded by  Samland, and performed by a troupe of pros. Somebody is killed of course, and there are a couple of private eyes on the case, and a couple of bumbling police detectives, and it takes place in a hotel where a lot of eccentric Hollywood types hang out. It’s presented as a bedtime story read to a pair of kids (played by Ingrid Goebel and Tim Goebel). The kids’ aunt (Pug Bujeaud) is the storyteller. Bujeaud also doubles as Professor Holiday, who helps solve the crime, or I should say helps muddy the water. Her quick costume and persona changes are so seamless as to be almost unnoticeable and even though it is neither a realistic nor a serious play, she is quite believable in both roles.

Most outstanding in their comic acting are Michael Christopher and Heather Christopher. Michael as the arrogant “best detective in the world” is hilarious in the campiest role I’ve ever seen him do. I love his walk and his mannerisms, which he has to tone down when he ends up duct-taped to a chair for long stretches of time. Heather does not have many speaking lines but her stage presence is wonderful. With her blonde pageboy, black leather jacket and hot pink tight pants, all she has to do is step on stage to make the audience break out in laughter. (If you saw her as Pink in Reservoir Dogs just imagine that role slightly tweaked for comic effect.)

Guy Taylor Simpson, III and George Dougherty are perfectly cast as the quintessential funny detective duo — think Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon or Laurel and Hardy as quarrelsome police inspectors. 

Wendy Hendrickson and Rae Simpson are great in supporting roles as a pair of dingbat bell hops. I love their costumes. 

Tom Sanders as Allen Hardcastle also spends a lot of time duct-taped to a chair as well as a lot of time lurking throughout the audience, and Robert McConkey, back in Olympia after a two-year absence, is delightful as Kent Ryder. And Rolly does a nice job as the worried hotel manager.

There is a lot of physical comedy, perhaps the most impressive of which is when Rob Taylor as Hamilton walks backwards from one end of the long room to another — a feat that can’t be adequately described but must be seen (and to tell you why he does that would constitute a spoiler).

There were minimal problems opening night. The emcee, Jeff Hirschberg, promised some kind of audience participation between dinner and show, which never happened — possibly to the relief of everyone in the audience, and there were a few sound problems because there were no microphones and in some scenes actors were a great distance from parts of the audience. During the whole opening scene, for instance, when the Goebels chased each other ’round and ’round with sponge bats, I could barely make out a word they were saying, but after that they were much easier to hear.

A tremendous amount of work went into staging the evening. The entire cast and crew deserves congratulations.

Remaining shows are Sept. 6, 7, 13 and 14 with dinner at 6 p.m. and show at 8 p.m. and
Sunday, Sept. 8 with dinner at noon and show at 2 p.m. at Pellegrino's Event Center 5757 Littlerock Rd. SW Tumwater.
$75 ticket for dinner and the play. For more information contact

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