Arts & Culture

Villains and heroes at Great American Melodrama's latest production

From left, Katie Worley, Jim McCaffrey, Megan C.C. Walker, Bree Murphy, Jim Shine and Andrew Beck in ‘The Crock of Gold.’
From left, Katie Worley, Jim McCaffrey, Megan C.C. Walker, Bree Murphy, Jim Shine and Andrew Beck in ‘The Crock of Gold.’ PHOTO BY GARY ADAMS

A honeypot filled with gleaming gold pieces is the prize in the Great American Melodrama’s latest production, “The Crock of Gold.”

Written by Silas S. Steele and adapted by director Eric Hoit, the play is a 19th century parable about greed and its consequences, complete with a likable everyman, star-crossed lovers and a sinister, sniveling villain. It runs through Sept. 18.

Set during the spring of 1893, “The Crock of Gold” takes place in and around the country estate of Sir John Vincent (Andrew Beck) outside London.

Housekeeper Bridget Quarles (Bree Murphy) is the terror of Hurstley Hall, a horrid harridan who’s always screaming at servant girl Sarah Slack (Katie Worley) and pilfering her master’s finest linens.

Her nephew, Simon Jennings (Jim Shine), is even worse.

As “butler, bailiff, overseer of the estate and chief officer of the household,” he controls who works, hunts and fishes on his lordship’s lands — putting him at odds with fisherman Peter Perch (Jim McCaffrey) and poacher Ben Burke (Beck again).

“So much goes through my fingers it’s only natural that something should stick,” admits Jennings, who’s acquired a small fortune through his misdeeds.

So when Aunt Bridget lets it slip that she keeps her ill-gotten loot in a honey crock locked in her cabinet, he vows to steal it. Naturally, the theft doesn’t go as planned.

Surprised in the act, Jennings strangles his aunt and escapes — only to drop his treasure in the pond in a moment of fright.

The gold eventually finds its way to the miserable hovel of laborer Roger Acton (Chuck McLane), his wife (Murphy) and their pious daughter, Grace (Megan C.C. Walker).

To the impoverished Roger, the gold seems like a godsend. But Grace and her mother wonder whether the crock is a blessing or a curse.

An old-fashioned melodrama, “The Crock of Gold” invites audience members to cheer “Steady Acton” and his friends, boo the evil Jennings and sigh as lovers Sarah and Peter — and similarly smitten pair Grace and Ben — enjoy a tender moment. Hero and villain alike are painted with strokes as broad as the actors’ accents.

That’s not to say that “The Crock of Gold” doesn’t show the Melodrama’s usual ingenuity.

Stage manager Tom Mosher and crew have a heyday with ever-changing scenes and backdrops. And the cast seems to be having fun as well — especially Shine, whose assiduous asides will inspire more chuckles than chills.

“The Crock of Gold” is followed by the vaudeville revue “The Great Outdoors,” which celebrates hiking, camping, swimming and other summertime activities in California’s mountain hideaways.

After an all-cast rendition of The Beatles’ “Good Day Sunshine,” the revue gets off to a rollicking start.

Ranger Andrew Beck and scout Chuck McLane share the best way to deal with bears and poison ivy in a spoof of “There is Nothing Like a Dame” from “South Pacific,” and hikers Bree Murphy and Megan C.C. Walker are terrorized by a couple of woodland creatures singing “You (Are a Human Animal).”

Other musical numbers include The Carpenters’ “Top of the World,” k.d. lang’s “Full Moon Full of Love” and “We Make a Beautiful Pair” from “Shenandoah.”

However, the highlight of the show is “Ghost Chickens in the Sky,” a silly, spooky sketch about paranormal poultry.