Over the summer the theater company to which I belong, Fearless Comedy Productions, developed a play for the Pre-Christmas season (a.k.a. Halloween). From what I remember about the planning meetings in the past months, the goal was to produce a family-friendly, spooky-fun show. For our first FCP-original presentation, it had to be exciting, fresh, and (duh) funny.
I saw the show this past Sunday. I like plays in the middle of their run; the actors have become comfortable with their roles, yet nobody seems exhausted or bored with the dialogue. The promo copy says: "When Iris, Troy, and Kevin, the eager team of ghost hunters at Ghost Grabbers, LLC, get a call from the residents of the 500-year old Gravethwait Manor, they are sure to be on the verge of discovering the center of the spirit world in the Upper Midwest. But by helping to catch the “ghosts” that haunt Count Gravethwait and his lovely wife Lilly, our heroes may have bitten off more than they can chew…"
What you actually watch: A parody of paranormal investigators bumble their way through a sinister plan created by the Count and Lilly, who are themselves bumbling through the Ghost Grabbers' technologically advanced snipe-hunt. Stuffed full of references to pop-culture, reality shows, vampire fiction, traditional ghost stories, and our favorite four phantom-tamers, "Gravethwait" has a wry sense of play that makes it a show entertaining for viewers of all ages.
My boyfriend came with me, newly acquainted with my social circle and theatrical proclivities. I considered him the closest representation of "the general public audience", and I do so delight in introducing him to nerdy and hilarious things. Also sitting in our row was Josh Nite, co-creator of the online RPG Kingdom of Loathing. Who happened to write The Secret of Gravethwait Manor, by the way, NBD.
I digress. Sitting between Josh and I, blocking me from the curmudgeonly glory of Mr. Skully, a co-member of FCP, and longtime Vilifier, my friend Matt Allex. He is really of no importance in this entry, except to mention that he brought his young son along to see this "family" show. While we waited for the show to begin, The Boy and I observed on the signage pre-set on stage which he initially read as "Ghost Rabbers" ("one capital "G" for two words). We decided that a "ghost rabber" is the restless spirit of a dead bunny. The show hasn't even started yet, and it's still inspiring creativity in the children! The show is directed by Courtney McClean, a comedian and musician well versed in improv, stand up, and double entendres. Courtney has a keen eye for physical comedy and a solid experience base in comedy on stage. I swear I was not paid or compensated in any way to say this, but my opinion is that Courtney was the perfect choice as director for such a play.
The playbill listed 11 scenes. Uff-da, right? Not actually a problem--each scene is a new location. Minimal props allowed for quick scene changes, smooth and natural as a storyteller pausing to draw a breath between narratives. The pacing of the story kept a steady pace, and the actors easily picked the energy back up after pausing for laughter. And there were a lot of pauses for laughter. I'm not talking about the Minnesotan, susurrus of amusement--full-on belly laughs were happening. The Boy laughed, the boyfriend laughed, Matt laughed (but he has head trauma), even the writer laughed (which is amazing). Much like other creative people, writers can be harshly critical of their own work. Mr. Skully was giggling along with the rest of us, enjoying the production he helped create.
The actors. I don't know if the actors will be relieved or disappointed that I'm not going to write much about them. I've already taken 2 hours of my morning to write this and have exhausted my store of spectacular descriptives for this humorous performance. I'd rather encourage everyone who reads this entry just go watch them yourselves, because no review can convey what they bring to this show. There's just the right amount of collective excitement, precision, and enthusiasm for their roles that helps the story move along smoothly and fleshes out each character. Voice and body language were used deftly to develop each character, balancing the good, the evil, and the weird within all of them. By they way, the well-honed and talented cast are:
Iris - Jill Iverson
Kevin - Ron Lamprecht
Troy - Ted Femrite
Otto - Bob Alberti
Lily - Cynthia Uhrich
To wrap up: Gravethwait is fucking hilarious. I was in an audience with a wide range of ages and tastes, yet laughter and entertainment were ubiquitous. There was even gasping for air (well, it was me, but c'mon!). Suzie Becker the Stage Manager ran things like a boss (and I heard she is super sexy also). The show only has two more performances, on Halloween and All Saints' Day. The Bryant Lake Bowl Theater serves a full bar and menu, meaning The Secret of Gravethwait Manor is the perfect start to an evening of monster parties, thrill-seeking, and men wearing females' inappropriately sexy costumes.
The Secret of Gravethwait Manor
October 31st - November 1st, 7:00pm
Bryant Lake Bowl Theater
810 W. Lake Street, Minneapolis
$12 tickets in advance or with your Fringe button or CONvergence badge
$15 tickets at the door, but you run the risk of not getting a seat, so why wouldn't you just buy them online at least 24 hours ahead of showtime
Name-dropping props to:
Horror Show Hotdog Podcast, KOL (Nite)
Apropos of Nothing Podcast, HSHotdog (Allex)
Courtney McClean and the Dirty Curls (McClean)
Fearless Comedy Productions (the rest of us)
Disclaimer: I absolutely was not compensated in any way to write this. In truth, I hold my friends, co-members, and co-actors to higher standards in regards to performance. So I was genuinely impressed and excited. Buy your tickets. Now.