"Bullshot Crummond" parodies detective stories and weekly serials of the '30s.

Parody succeeds in
producing real laughs

"Bullshot Crummond": Presented by The Actors Group at Yellow Brick Studio, 625 Keawe St.; repeats 7:30 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays, and 4 p.m. Sundays, through Nov. 7. Tickets $10. Call 722-6941

Melodrama is not easy to pull off when entertaining contemporary audiences. The exaggerated acting style dating to the silent movies era can easily seem corny or forced today, and a play that purports to be a parody of melodrama forces the players to labor under an additional burden of being funny without appearing to force the audience to laugh.

All too often, plays based on the premise that "We Are Doing Very Very Funny Stuff" turn out to be slow slogs through material that is mildly amusing at best. Director Dennis Proulx sends a game cast of five out on stage with such a show in The Actors Group production of "Bullshot Crummond."

The play is a committee-written parody of the detective stories and weekly movie serials that flourished in the 1930s, and were revived by the "Indiana Jones" franchise in the 1980s. Fans of "classic cinema" will recognize the name of the title character as a takeoff on Bulldog Drummond, a fictional hero of the era.

The storyline will also evoke deja vu. A group of German spies led by stereotypical Germanic villain Otto von Bruno kidnaps an English scientist who has developed a formula to make giant "sin-zetik" diamonds and plan to smuggle the man and/or the formula back to Germany. A note from the scientist's beautiful daughter, Rosemary, brings Bullshot Crummond, World War I hero and indefatigably oblivious English gentleman, to the rescue.

Crummond, of course, survives numerous dastardly tricks and traps, romances the "girl," and saves the day for England.

THE PLAY DATES from sometime in the 1970s and not surprisingly owes as much to "The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle" as it does to the Anglophile films and matinee serials of the 1930s. Otto von Bruno and his femme fatale consort are Germanic clones of Boris and Natasha, and TAG star Mark Miller plays Crummond as an English counterpart of Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties, another character from "Rocky and Bullwinkle," a straight-arrow type who was often numbingly oblivious to the obvious, but who always succeeded in thwarting the schemes of evil Snidely Whiplash.

Crummond faces and escapes an assortment of standard threats such as cut brake lines and a giant poisonous spider with unshakable aplomb and unselfconscious male chauvinism. For instance, Crummond informs the beautiful and plucky Rosemary, "If you weren't a girl, you'd make a jolly fine chap," but politely puts her in her place after they've each saved the other's life by explaining, "You gave me a helping hand (but) I saved your life."

Miller wears the character well and keeps Crummond likable despite his outdated attitudes about women. Jennifer Robideau (Rosemary) makes a fine English heroine throughout and displays presence as a physical comedienne as well.

Shane Garcia (Otto von Bruno) proves a whiz at accents. He's adept at physical comedy and swordplay as well, but the show's unidentified makeup artist has him looking like a cross between a vampire, a zombie and Fu Manchu (another mythic villain of the era) rather than Germanic. Garcia's real-life wife, Melanie Garcia (Lenya von Bruno), contributes a satisfactory portrayal of a stereotypical "PG-rated" femme fatale despite ghoulish makeup that suggests that Leyna is either a vampire-dominatrix or an extra in a remake of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

The cast gives it a good shot, but the TAG production is low-budget even for a show that is evidently supposed to look low-budget, and the comic quotient rarely reaches the high standards of "Rocky and Bullwinkle," "Monty Python's Flying Circus" or MAD magazine. Even so, something in the mish-mash of deliberately over-the-top acting, preposterous dialogue, malfunctioning props, and comically bad makeup will eventually be laugh-worthy and funny rather than forced.

The cleverest bits come when Garcia doubles as another villain, Italian-American gangster Salvatore Scalicio, who ends up getting into a fight with Otto von Bruno. Garcia's skill in switching costumes and accents while ducking behind a narrow panel to do so is the single most impressive thing in the show. Garcia's portrayal of the two characters is a marvel to behold.

Jared Jeffries also stands out while playing seven secondary characters that range from a stereotypical English gentleman to a deranged Slavic hunchback. Comically bad wigs and blatantly fake mustaches add to the impact of Jeffries' comic characterizations.

If luck is on Proulx's side, a couple of opening-night glitches involving malfunctioning props will occur throughout the run.

The Actors' Group

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