2nd Story’s “Seven Keys To Baldpate” Is Quick & Bright

Feb 7, 2014

Ara Boghigian is William Hallowell Magee,and Tanya Anderson is Myra Thronhill in George M. Cohan’s “Seven Keys to Baldpate”
Credit Richard W. Dionne, Jr.

Right-o. Let me say it up front. “Seven Keys to Baldpate” at 2nd Story is nothing less than a charmer. It’ll tickle your funny bone and warm your heart in the middle of this obstreperous winter of our discontent.

Okay, that’s enough of 1913-type hyperbole. But there’s no question that the Providence-born Cohan knew what he was doing. He adapted “Baldpate” from a novel by the author of the Charlie Chan film series. He said the play is both a farce and a melodrama. He was right on both counts.

On-stage, “Baldpate” is filled with goofy moments and overwrought happenings.

The great thing about that, and about the theater’s take on it all, is that this production manages to get you giggling at all the old-time-y stuff even as it draws you in to the uhh, shall we say, somewhat tremulous plot.

Oh, yes, that. One gentlemen, William Hallowell Magee, played with delightful drive by 2nd Story’s leading man, Ara Boghigian, arrives at a New England summer resort -- in the middle of a blizzard. He’s looking for a little quiet time to write a novel and win a bet.

He gets lots more than that. A stream of guys and gals enter the resort called “Baldpate.” Some of them are packin’ guns. Others are sweet and young and pretty. All have secrets to hide.

Needless to say, there’s a lot of money involved, $200,000 in 1913 currency to be exact. Nearly everyone is after the jackpot. Guns are fired, there’s a wild-eyed hermit, and damsels are in distress. “I don’t know who you are,” one coos “with wide-eyed falseness. “But you’re a man and you can help me.”

At 2nd Story, the ever sharp-eyed Ed Shea has directed, and choreographed, this “Baldpate” with both warmth and precision. The production clicks along for a speedy hour and twenty minutes with no intermission. Sheas’s cast is quick and bright. At times, they all line up and speak together. Other moments find each actor’s character, clearly delineated. Trinity Rep did “Baldpate” back in 1976. In my memory, this one is better.

Erin Elliott is a delightful sweet young thing. Anthony Pesare and Liz Hallenbeck are goofy funny as a caretaking couple and Tanya Anderson a provocative and not-so-sweet young thing.  Then there’s John Michael Richardson, Southern accent and all, who makes the not-so-dumb hermit a winner.

The costumes by Jesse Darrell are hardly all 1913 but they work well. Trevor Elliott’s setting is equally strong, hardly “realistic” but very usable.

In Fact, all of this flamboyant and effective production works. It’s a definitive delight taking the old and making it new.

By the way, if you still are not convinced you need to see another century old melodrama, allow me to insure you that there are modern moments in “Seven Keys to Baldpate.”  One of them includes the idea that losing a great deal of money is hardly an everyday event. At least isn’t unless you are on Wall Street, one dude says. Considering the last few years, that sounds pretty modern to me.

Want to Go?

“Seven Keys to Baldpate” continues at 2nd Story Theatre in Warren through February 23rd.

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