There’s no ambiguity in Theatre Wellesley’s latest production: the good guys are good, and the bad guys are obvious. But it’s the manic pace of the comedic Peril on the High Seas, which opens November 15, that will demand your attention.
From the sugary heroine Merry Ann Sweet to the dastardly Snively Swine, the players all stay in character … well, except when the story calls for something else, but even then we know who to cheer for.
“There are a lot of great characters in this story,” says producer Rhonda Caldwell. “We know who the good guys are. And the evil laughter of our villains would certainly let you know that they’re the bad guys.”
The play, penned by Billy St. John, takes us aboard the HMS Majestic at the height of the opulence of the Roaring Twenties. The rich heiress Merry Ann Sweet, travelling with her appropriately-named aunt Bea Goode, is the target of a kidnapping plot masterminded by Snively Swine (yes, he’s the bad guy). Along with his partner, the slinky and exotic Aracnia Webb, Swine disguises himself as Sir Reginald Rottentot, a British nobleman, in order to gain the confidence of Merry and her flapper friends, Mitzi, Ritzy and Ditzy.
Swine’s plans go awry, however, when Merry falls for a handsome waiter, Cary De Mille (our hero and all-round good guy). The villain must adjust on the fly, while the would-be suitor has problems of his own in the form of a company policy that forbids staff from fraternizing with the passengers. Could the love story be over before it even begins? Not if Merry’s flapper friends can help it. Together, they transform Merry from a shy young lady into a red-hot jazz baby.
Not complicated enough for you? Snively’s accomplice, Aracnia attempts to cast a web of her own around young Cary, who she becomes smitten with, much to the waiter’s chagrin. Can he save Merry and stay out of Aracnia’s clutches? It’s up to the passengers – movie star Mary Pickaxe (man, make that woman, overboard), gossip columnist Hedda Hooper, detective Willy Ketchum and more – to help Cary put the damper on Swine.
There does in fact appear to be many a Peril on the High Seas.
Establishing and dealing with those perils requires a hectic pace on the most complicated set Theatre Wellesley has dealt with to date. The 14 actors are constantly moving to and fro, maintaining the comic flow in the midst of set and costume changes galore.
It’s a more involved show for the community theatre group’s 15th anniversary, said Caldwell.
“We wanted to do something bigger and special.”
In keeping with the celebratory atmosphere, the Saturday night show a “captain’s table” performance, which will feature musical entertainment along with appetizers and punch before the show, and dessert and coffee/tea during the intermission.
“It will feel like the captain’s table, like you’re in the dining room. Instead of just watching the show, you feel like you’re part of the show,” she said.
No need to dress up, however, as it’s not a black-tie affair. That said, if you feel like getting in on the spirit of a 1920s cruise, feel free to indulge yourself, she added. Perhaps you might feel like extending that Halloween spirit a little longer.
“It will definitely have the ’20s feel,” said Caldwell of the performances, pointing to music in keeping with the era and the cast breaking into the Charleston in the second act.
The Theatre Wellesley production of Peril on the High Seas (or Let’s Get Together and Do Launch) runs November 15 (8 p.m.), 16 (8 p.m.) and 17 (2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.) at the Wellesley Community Centre. Tickets are $15 for the Thursday and Friday night shows; $10 for the matinee; and $25 for Saturday night’s “captain’s table” performance. Tickets are available at Pym’s Village Market, online at www.ticketscene.ca or by calling 519-897-1737. More information is available online at www.theatrewellesley.ca.