The Great American Melodrama in Oceano kicks off its 2015 season with the rousing British comedy “Bullshot Crummond.”
Directed by Melodrama Artistic Director Eric Hoit and written by Ron House, Diz White, John Neville Andrews, Alan Shearman and Derek Cunningham, “Bullshot Crummond” is a parody of low-budget 1930s detective movies filled with thrills, spills and classic comic cliffhangers.
The comedy, which was first performed in 1974, is an ideal production for the multi-talented Melodrama players.
“Bullshot Crummond” opens with the kidnapping of famed Professor Rupert Fenton (Alex Sheets) by the German villain Otto Von Brunno (Sam Hartley) and his evil accomplice, Lenya Von Brunno (Meggie Siegrist).
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The professor’s daughter, damsel-in-distress Rosemary Fenton (Sierra Wells), contacts the dashing Captain Hugh “Bullshot” Crummond (Toby Tropper), a World War I ace fighter pilot and part-time sleuth, to help rescue her father. Thus begins the madcap race to thwart the Von Brunnos’ plans to use the professor’s formula to make synthetic diamonds.
With plot twists including a car chase, a sword fight, a giant tarantula and mind-blowing weapons called the Cranial Stimulant X and the Converse Force Field, there is never a dull moment in the play.
Much of the comedy is built around silly props that mimic the special effects in a low-budget film.
At the beginning of the play, the Von Brunnos are piloting a plane that is about to crash in the English countryside. The stage goes dark and then the audience sees two tiny floating parachutes. When the lights return, Otto and Lenya are lying on stage recovering from their landing.
At times, cut-out birds fly across the stage. And femme fatale Lenya carries around a fake pet falcon on her arm.
Each actor embraces their roles with humor and playful enthusiasm while taking the audience on a wild ride. A couple of the five cast members play multiple roles.
Sheets, who first appears as Professor Fenton, does a superb job playing such roles as a Chinese assassin, a local police officer, a waiter in a hotel restaurant and a one-armed Scotland Yard inspector. In addition, Hartley shows great comic timing as he quickly changes back and forth between Otto Von Brunno and a Chicago gangster with the help of clever set design.
Tropper, Wells and Siegrist also give strong performances.
Given the variety of fast-paced scene and character changes in “Bullshot Crummond,” credit goes to technical designer Brian Williams, costume designer Renee Van Niel and stage manager Amanda Johnson. Providing musical direction and playing piano is Kevin Lawson.
Following “Bullshot Crummond” is the “Coffeehouse Vaudeville Revue,” which takes a look at our national obsession with coffee.
The revue uses song, dance and comedy to poke fun at our affection for coffeehouses, baristas and caffeine. Highlights include a jazzy quartet singing the classic song “Black Coffee,” a flashback to a 1960s folk music coffeehouse named The Bitter End, a female stalker who’s in love with a Starbucks server and the ups and downs of being a barista job applicant.
The standout moment comes when the ensemble skillfully imitates those famous “Friends” hanging out at the fictional New York City coffeehouse Central Perk.
The “Coffeehouse Vaudeville Revue” is directed by Eric Hoit, with musical direction by Lawson and choreography by Hoit and Leah Kolb. The sketch “Friends Revealed” is written and directed by Erik Stein.
So put down that cup of joe and make your way to the Melodrama. You will find fun and laughter without the need for any caffeine.
7 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday; through March 8
Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville, 1863 Front St., Oceano
$19 to $25
489-2499 or www.americanmelodrama.com