Program for Seven Keys to Baldpate
WriterJim Payton
AdventuressSusinne Michele
Ex-ConvictKen Shafer
Corrupt MayorRob Tyler
ReporterErrinn Arterburn
Conniving Railroad PresidentAlex Sandie
HenchmanFrank Pepito
Ghostly HermitJack Dunasky
Police ChiefBrent Stringfield
CaretakersDanny Morris, Toni Perkins
Baldpate OwnerPeggy Schneider
CopDavid Thompson

Cast of Seven Keys to Baldpate

Another cast picture

January 19,1995

Audiences will find PowPAC's play,
'7 Faces to Baldpate,' is a sure bet

By Pat Kumpan
Community Editor

Chances are most of us have accepted a "bet" at one time or another, a challenge that we know we can win. Maybe that's the familiar chord that strikes true when Poway Performing Art Company's "Seven Keys to Baldpate" unfolds before our eyes.

Caretakers Mr. and Mrs. Quimby, played by Danny Morris and Toni Perkins, help set the mood as they rush to prepare the closed-up summer resort on Baldpate Mountain in the dead of winter.

They've been instructed by the resort's owner, Mrs. Bentley (Peggy Schneider), to make the place presentable for a friend, William Hallowell Magee, a writer.

Magee makes a ,000 bet that he can write a novel in 24 hours while he stays at the "loneliest place on Earth," Baldpate. A desolate place with no interruptions, what better set of surroundings could he have to win the bet?

The Quimbys leave him with the "only key in existence" to the front door and scoot out, having met the requirements of the agreement. From this point on, peace and quiet is only a dream, a far off one at that. As the blizzard outside rages, things inside are heating up. It appears there are seven keys, not one, and each bearer appears mysteriously with a different reason for arriving.

Magee, played by Jim Payton, remains unflappable as he walks us through his ego and confidence is a writer, while the reality of blackmail, panic and a killing, provided by several unexpected guests, attack his solitude and chance to win the bet.

A wall safe with 0,000 seems to be the center of attraction, as an adventuress (Susinne Michele), an ex-convict (Ken Shafer), a corrupt mayor (Rob Tyler), a reporter (Errinn Arterbum), a conniving railroad president (Alex Sandie) and his henchman (Frank Pepito), a ghostly hermit (Jack Dunasky), a charming chaperon (Irene Billingsley), a police chief (Brent Stringfield), and a cop (David Thompson) merge at the same destination.

Revealing all of the plot would spoil the ftin in this mystery farce, written by George M. Cohan in 1913, especially the twist during the final scene. That's why a little "mystery" will have to prevail.

PowPAC should take a bow for presenting quality entertainment.

"Seven Keys to Baldpate" continues until Feb. 5 during Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and two Sunday shows, Jan. 29 and Feb. 5, at 2 p.m. Call 679-8085 for reservations and ticket information.

March 1995
Review by Jim Williams

Perhaps the quintessential showman of all time, George M. Cohan also penned a number of mystery farces that have stood the test of time. Seven Keys to Baldpate was written and set in 1913, but director Candace Cameron elected to set Poway 's production in 1935. In addition to making costuming easier, the time period also fit the government graft/duplicity/ hypocricy theme quite well.

Pulp writer William Magee has made a 00 wager that he can crank out one of his potboilers in 24 hours and the summer resort of Baldpate is the designated site. Deserted in the dead of winter and the middle of the night, he should find the locale ideal. But contrary to his impression that he holds the only key to Balpate, six other nefarious/wacky/sinister/ demented characters also have keys and Balpate becomes the setting for political scams, romance, double crosses, and even a murder. As Magee is about to be frantically driven over the edge of sanity, it is revealed that all are actors from a local theatre troupe, playing a dandy joke on him. But wait! Blackout. Magee emerges from his writing room with finished manuscript. All we have seen is from his fertile imagination and he has completed Seven Keys to Baldpate in 24 hours.

Improbable. Comy. Dated. And wonderful!

It is always difficult to assess director's expertise - how many choices were designers' and actors' as opposed to director's? I am familiar with the work of some of these actors (Danny Morris, Jim Payton, Irene Billingsley, Rob Tyler, Alex Sandie) and can say without equivocation that Candace Cameron has pulled from them some of their best work. Aside from a few awkward blocking choices ("Now it's your turn to stand, walk around, then sit again."), direction played its proper key role in making this a most successful, enjoyable production.

Danny Morris and Toni Perkins had the difficult job of literally acting in the dark for the first several minutes of the show. Both provided the required exposition in a most entertaining manner. Frank Pepito as John Bland was a bit, well, bland as the supposedly threatening heavy, but settled more confidently into his role by Act II.

Susinne Michele as Myra Thornhill made the most of body language and withering put-down's to give us one terrific bitch. Need sleaze, lowlife, pond scum? Call Ken Sharer whose Lou Max couldn't handle a promotion from small time hoodlum to murderer and hilariously unrav eled in a side-splitter in Act II. Jack Dunasky's bio says he's completely different from his character Peters, the hermit. No way. This was no actor. Candace Cameron pulled him out of some murky doorway, took his brown paper bag and pint bottle from him, and threw him onstage where he continuously skewered the "respectable" characters invading his mountain. Brent Stringfield made a strong local cop (Jiggs Kennedy) whose consistently believable honest guy portrayal made his sudden detour down the swindler's path especially funny.

Usually cast as an inept humbler, it was refreshing to see Alex Sandie (Thomas Hayden) so capably carry off the role of the pompous financier. In a show full of high points and outstanding performances, Rob Tyler stood just a shade above the rest as corrupt political boss Mayor Jim Cargan. Spewing threats and invective through teeth clenched around his ubiquitous cigar, he made a very threatening, yet simultaneously comical thug. Cohan knew how much the "common folk" like to see the powerful and corrupt brought down and Tyler filled out every little comer of Cargan's character as he desperately tried to justify his underhanded role in society. Great accent, too!

Best known for dramatic roles, Irene Billingsley made a darn good showing as a comedienne. Supposedly in love with the mayor, but ignorant of his seamy side, her empty-headed yet somehow savvy portrayal of Mrs. Rhodes was reminiscent of the best of her heritage: Zasu Pitts, Edna Mae Oliver, Hope Emerson, et al.

Had Cohan known Errinn Arterburn would be playing Mary, he would have written more lines for her in order to keep her on stage longer. Every male heart in the audience stopped when this creamy complexioned sprite came through the door. As the spunky "I can do anything" newspaper reporter, she combined vulnerability with grit that (pardon the cliche) melted hearts. Seductive, yet disarmingly innocent, Ms. Arterburn actually made the ending a bit sad. We wanted Magee to get the girl, but he doesn't get her. No one does! Can I have her?

Who gets the parts with only a couple of lines? Frequently those whose auditions are, frankly, pretty awful. They can manage a few words on stage and no one else will take the parts. Peggy Schneider (Baldpate's owner) and David Thompson (The Cop) made their first appearance on Poway's stage, but it certainly won't be their last. Very competent actors in tiny roles add that special bit of polish to a community theatre production.

This leaves theatre veteran Jim Payton in the difficult straight-man role of William Hallowell Magee. Bringing a certain insouciant elan to the role, he gave the character a Dean Martin flair that played very well off the rather intense lunacy of the others.

Lighting designer Dan Kramarsky was saddled with a show that plays in total darkness and dim light. In such situations, it's just necessary to take a little dramatic license and ask the audience to suspend some belief. He made the best of a lighting nightmare.

Candace Cameron dsigned her own two level set. A nicely textured paint job gave the illusion of wood grain and the mountain view outside was quite spectacular. The moving fireplace moved fitfully, however, shaking the rest of the set, and a removable door panel never did go back into place properly. The position of the switchboard made Magee's claim that he could not talk on the phone and watch the others meaningless. Costume designers Kathy Eldridge and Tina Eldridge had a field day with 1930's fashions, very nicely costuming each character.

Michael Shapiro's sound design of the storm was a bit puzzling. Whenever anyone approached the door, storm sound rose. Why? Sometimes we had the storm full volume when the doors opened, a few moments later no sound at all. Producers Janet Danehy and Danny Morris can be proud of a well executed production. cast, designers and crew obviously worked together to deliver a most enjoyable show.