The Bowe Theatre at Hood River Valley High School is the scene — er, scenes — of some corny intrigue and wacky hijinks during the next two weeks as the HRV Performing Arts Department’s annual play takes the stage.
Drama teacher Rachel Krummel directs a cast of ten in the comedy “Bullshot Crummond,” which runs Friday, Saturday and March 14, 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m.
“Bullshot Crummond” is a spoof on the old detective movies of the 1920s and ’30s — specifically the “Bulldog Drummond” films, which spanned from the silent movie era through the 1940s and chronicled the exploits of adventure-seeking gentleman-spy Hugh “Bulldog” Drummond.
“Bullshot” has its own gentleman-spy in the form of Hugh “Bullshot” Crummond, played by HRV junior Hans Severinsen.
The two-act play follows the bumbling Crummond who, with the help of his high-brow English pal Algy (played by junior Jerrad Barclay) tries to thwart the dastardly plans of villainous German spies Otto and Lenya von Brunno (senior Rudy Schuepbach and junior Ashly Will).
The play opens with the German duo (are they husband and wife? father and daughter? lovers?) parachuting into England, where they’ve come to kidnap Professor Rupert Fenton (played by freshman Bob Wood) who has invented a formula for producing synthetic diamonds.
The professor’s fetching daughter, Rosemary (played by sophomore Laila Winner), writes Crummond to tell him of her father’s plight and plead for help. Without further ado, Crummond is on the case.
The next two hours are a roller-coaster ride of car chases, car wrecks, sword fights, tarantula fights, avalanches, corny love scenes and hilarious exchanges between characters in a series of scenes made funnier by the fact that they’re only loosely connected with one another.
The script is funny to begin with, and Krummel and her cast take it even further with a few of their own touches.
“I threw in a Fred Astaire dance number just because I thought it’d be fun,” Krummel said. Another element Krummel added was with the character of Lenya von Brunno.
“I thought, what if every time she came on stage she was wearing a different outfit?” Krummel said. From the opening scene — when Lenya strips off her flying suit to reveal a black evening dress, spike heels and feather boa — Will struts onstage for each scene in a different and comically elegant outfit, complemented always by her cigarette holder and evil laugh.
Krummel has been working hard the last few weeks to incorporate an element new to HRV productions: sound effects.
“It’s taken all my time,” she said. But the resulting 30 sound cues per act are well worth it. From airplane and car engines to appropriately timed suspense sounds to dramatic 1930s-era music, the sound effects add much to the humor — and corniness — of the production.
The cast of ten is small. Some of the actors play more than one part, including a brilliant scene where Schuepbach plays von Brunno and a hired hitman simultaneously by passing back and forth behind a screen.
“It fleshes out the cast more when you have more kids,” Krummel said. “But I wanted to give a few of the kids experience in playing more than one character.”
Severinsen is a veteran of both HRV and CAST productions — in many of which he’s played the lead — but he seems to be made for the role of Crummond. His facial expressions and line delivery, complete with crummy English accent, play to a tee the bumbling “Bullshot,” who’s always one step behind his German arch enemies.
Winner is equally adept as Laila, and one of her character traits (you’ll know it when you hear it) is worth the price of admission.
The cast is rounded out by junior Stan Murray who plays three characters, including a half-wit henchman to the von Brunnos; senior Russell Marquez who plays two characters, including a Scotland Yard policeman; senior Sarah Fix, the production’s stage manager who doubles as Lenya’s falcon, Fritz; and stage hand Dylan Brady, a senior.
Krummel and her cast have been working hard since mid-winter to bring the play to life.
“Comedy is the hardest thing to do,” Krummel said. “In any comedy, they give you the lines and you have to find the humor.” She said kids often “don’t see the humor in the lines” at first, so it takes more work to bring the spoof off.
“But once you get them started, then it becomes synergistic,” she said. Krummel credits her talented cast with pulling off a difficult production.
“These are the most amazing kids,” she said. “I have talent coming out my ears.”