(With a nod to esteemed local Theatre writer Pat Taylor, I can’t resist writing about this semi-out-of-town performance.)
I want to Talk about a special local writer, why we recently drove to Upland on a beautiful weekend and how surprisingly pleasant Upland is (like a local Mayberry). When Mary Willard has a new play and Fred Willard is the star, one goes almost anywhere, so we caught the final performance at Upland’s choice Grove Theatre. The drive was only about 45 minutes and her play was more than worth it.
Deathtroupe: Full of doors, windows, grilled cheese sandwiches, yellow slickers, galoshes, bodies, robbers, guns, clam chowder and lots and lots of laughs, Deathtroupe is silly, zany and ever so wicked good.
Fred Willard undauntingly played Kit Cassidy, who opens The Blueberry Hill Inn, and vows to his wife and friends to finally find the success that has eluded him. Kit’s friend Donnie is an amateur mystery writer. It’s decided that their new Inn will be the first Bed And Breakfast Dinner Theatre and they will do a production of Donny’s mystery play, Deathtroupe. During their dress rehearsal, a fierce Nor’easter pounds Eastern Massachusetts and they are snowbound with two armed and dangerous robbers on the loose. Let the entertainment begin. Director Alan Shearman does a delicious job of getting laughs and screams. Fred Willard as the hapless Kit is very, very, funny (as always). Surrounding Fred/Kit are Jim Staahl as the schoolteacher, Howard Wilson as Sheriff Stu and Rodger Bumpass as Donnie the playwright. The three are a hilarious trio combining slapstick and wit. Anna Mathias as Lily is tres amusing and Vil Towers and Anne Johnston Brown will make you weep with laughter. Jeremy McGouirk, Tony Collins, Veronica Crystal Young, Caitlin Lopez are very funny and Ben Gillman as the cook/stage manager is priceless.
Bottom line: When you know a Mary Willard play is around, pop in for the fun of it.
Mary Willard: This Valley Girl has put the “good” in Good Deeds and Good Humor — and smart too. She married Fred Willard 43 years ago and they, and their daughter Hope (and, coming up, 13 year old grandson Freddy), are a huge part of the comedy theatre scene.
On the Good Deeds side, Mary is a busy member of the board of Actors and Others for Animals, the Guild of Big Brothers/Big Sisters Los Angeles and is active with the Alliance for Children’s Rights and Farm Sanctuary.
Mary co-founded the Playwrights Group at the Company of Angels and was Playwright in Residence at the Cast Theatre for three years. She was playwright director for Women In Theatre and produced the Women in Theatre Sunday play readings for three years and additionally worked with playwrights at the Stella Adler Theatre. She has studied with Marsha Norman, Horton Foote, John Sparks, Romulus Linney and Doris Baizley and has studied fiction writing at the prestigious Sewanee Writers’ Conference with such luminaries as Tim O’Brien, Alice McDermott, Ernest Gaines and Richard Ford. She is a twenty year member of The Dramatist’s Guild, Inc. But that’s not all…
For fifteen years, Mary and Fred have run a weekly comedy workshop, The MoHo Group. They perform a sketch comedy show each month (at the Bang Studio Theatre in Hollywood). Members of the MoHo Group are some of the funniest people in or out of Hollywood!
Mary Willard has written a passel of plays and musicals. Award winning and well reviewed locally, in New York and internationally. And her newest, with its large cast and fun costumes, is zany, fast, fierce and fun for the whole family.
Hmm, Deathtroupe (rhymes with F Troop) is madcap comedy and classic in its own super silly way. I predict a long life in community theatre in our country that could use some laughs.