Arts & Culture

Melodrama ‘A Witless Rogue’ charms Oceano theater fans

Rita (Emily Chatterson), right, toys with the emotions of Captain Chiqui (Toby Tropper) in “A Witless Rogue,” playing at the Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville in Oceano.
Rita (Emily Chatterson), right, toys with the emotions of Captain Chiqui (Toby Tropper) in “A Witless Rogue,” playing at the Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville in Oceano.

The classic comic melodrama “A Witless Rogue” is stealing hearts and wreaking havoc at the Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville in Oceano.

Director Eric Hoit adapted “A Witless Rogue” from the play “An Arrant Knave,” originally written by 19th-century American playwright Steele MacKaye.

Paulo (Seryozha La Porte), an honest and humble hunter, has fallen in love with enchanting Laura (Chelcie Abercrombie) after saving her nurse, Luca (Louise Barcellos), from a wild boar.

His friend, courageous soldier Hugo (Philip Bolton), soon meets Paulo’s sister, Rita (Emily Chatterson), and they secretly grow fond of each other. But Hugo must first discover his true pedigree before he can be with Rita.

Meanwhile, pretentious Duke Phillipo of Moreno (Philip David Black) intends to marry Laura — his cousin — in order to secure his throne. He sends Captain Chiqui (Toby Tropper), the witless rogue of the title, to detain Laura at the Convent of St. Rosalia for the wedding.

At the convent, Rita tricks the foolish Chiqui into believing she is Laura. While Rita flirts and toys with the captain’s emotions, Laura flees into the woods.

At the same time, Paulo and Rita’s stepfather, selfish Vico (also played by Black) and evil Count Torriani (Mike Fiore) search for buried treasure: secret documents and precious jewelry.

The zany plot unfolds with a swashbuckling sword fight, daring escapes and a cross-dressing captain. Eventually, the shenanigans lead the characters to the house of the Grand Duchess Francesca (Amanda Johnson) where secrets are revealed, justice is served and true love is fulfilled.

The complicated script is performed well by the Melodrama’s talented cast. Impeccable timing and delivery of rapid-fire dialogue are coupled with hilarious synchronized steps by the actors.

With his comical facial expressions and physical antics, Tropper is outstanding as the dimwitted captain.

Scenic designer Brian Williams creates the modest interior of Vico’s cottage and uses painted backdrops for the convent setting and woods. Costume designer Renee Van Niel provides traditional clothing befitting the 1800s setting. Johnson is the lighting designer and stage manager.

Following each performance of “A Witless Rogue,” the Melodrama presents “The Villains Vaudeville Revue.”

Through comedy, song and dance, the show pokes fun at a frustrated Snow White who is tired of always being good and dreams of becoming a villain.

Classic villains such as Dr. Evil from “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery,” Cruella De Vil from “101 Dalmatians” and Captain Hook from “Peter Pan” teach Snow White how to be a villain. The show features a parody of the Michael Jackson song “Bad,” and a rendition of the tune “Dentist!” from the musical “Little Shop of Horrors.”

“The Villains Vaudeville Revue” is directed by Dan Schultz with musical direction by Nate McClure and choreography by Jillian Van Niel.

“A Witless Rogue” and “The Villains Vaudeville Revue” celebrate the traditional struggle between heroes and villains with the right amount of wacky fun.

‘A Witless Rogue’

7 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday; 6 p.m. Sunday; through Sept. 18.

Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville, 1863 Front St., Oceano

$19 to $25

805-489-2499 or