WAKEFIELD - The Contemporary Theatre Company opened the doors of its new home on Main Street in Wakefield on Friday night and put on a memorable performance of a play that some consider to be â€śunstageable.â€ť
According to the directorâ€™s note for Is He Dead?, which is running at CTC from now until the end of July, the script is a big mess. Written by Mark Twain but not officially published until a decade ago, the play is not easily adaptable to a stage in its original form - but CTC makes it happen.
â€śFor fanboys and fangirls of American humor,â€ť the note from Director Shawn Fennell continues, â€śthat makes what you are about to see a very big deal.â€ť
Is He Dead? follows a young and talented French artist named Jean Francois Millet and his rag-tag group of picture-dealing friends through a 19th Century money scam. In order to pay off the debts owed to deceptive money man Bastien Andre, and to afford food, the group fakes Milletâ€™s death to drive up the cost of his marvelous paintings.
Chaos ensues once the plan is set in motion. Millet must dress like a woman to hide his identity and continue to churn out quality paintings from a tiny closet, while the dealers, led by the sharp and witty Chicago, try so sell them.
The cast of almost 30 actors and actresses creates numerous on-stage traffic jams throughout the play. Other times, there are only two characters sharing the stage.
Chicago, played by Tammy Brown in her CTC debut, and Dutchy, another anxious picture dealer played by Amy Lee Connell, a CTC veteran, have great on-stage chemistry, and set much of the scene for the opening half of the play with a lengthy 2-character dialogue towards the start of Act One.
Even prior to that, the play opens with a nearly silent performance by Ashley Macamaux as the chimney sweep. Alone on stage, the dusty worker stumbles and grunts about and must find a way to provide a signature without possessing the ability to spell. While this sequence has little to do with the story, itâ€™s begins the playâ€™s tone of intrigue mixed with silliness.
Eventually, more and more characters are realized and the long and intricate story unfolds piece by piece. The more that happens, the more crazy ideas are hatched, and the messier the play becomes.
Located at 327 Main St., Wakefield, CTCâ€™s new digs are small and intimate. About 90 seats surround the stage area in the shape of an â€śL,â€ť with a break in the seats for where the main entrance/exit is. The theatre may get a little hot in the summer months, but is ideal for a close-up viewing of a well-perormed play.
There will be a lot to do at the new CTC playhouse this summer. Once Is He dead? is all wrapped up on July 21, the company will produce Larry Shueâ€™s The Foreigner and the complete (abridged) works of William Shakespeare in a 90-minute show.
Also, there is improvised comedy at CTC every Friday night at 9:30, three Saturday cabaret shows this summer, a creative day camp starting July 23, and family double features every Saturday morning at 10:30.
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