A compact parody with a long name — Bullshot Crummond in The Evil Eye of Jabar and the Invisible Bride of Death — breaks new ground in Denton.
For the first time, the Greater Denton Arts Council and Denton Community Theatre joined forces to produce a show that hasn’t been produced in the southwest.
A scrappy group of actors produced Bullshot Crummond last season in the Black Box Theatre. The play by Ron House, Alan Shearman, Diz White, John Neville Andrews and Derek Cunningham spoofed low-budget detective movies that champion British heroism. The cast — Travis and Melanie Barth, Jason Lee, Vanessa Welch, Cyrus Carrillo and Nathan Probst — said they were hooked since they had their first rehearsal for the first show.
“After the first one we all wanted to do more,” said Melanie Barth, who plays the femme fatale and girlfriend of the story’s villain, Lenya. “It’s one of the best times I’ve ever had on stage. Travis started looking for the second show I think just a few days after we closed last year.”
Travis Barth plays villain Otto von Bruno, and said he scoured the internet for Evil Eye of Jabar. In the first play, von Bruno and Lenya crash their plane in the English countryside and abduct Dr. Fenton, who discovered the formula to make synthetic diamonds. Bullshot Crummond, a dashing and slightly overconfident English soldier comes to the rescue. He meets the voluptuous and sweet daughter of the professor, Rosemary. The two chase von Bruno and Lenya and get into a fix, but Crummond gets them out of it in an unconventional way. Evil Eye picks up shortly after the first play leaves off. Otto von Bruno means to claim a precious gem — the Evil Eye of Jabar. In return, he hopes to win incredible power, bury Crummond and Rosemary and wipe England off the map.
“I finally found something and sent an email to Alan Shearman,” Travis Barth said. “I figured I might hear back from him in a few days, but he answered almost immediately.”
The company got the green light to produce the show. Unfortunately, director Ash Robbins found that Denton Community Theatre had used all of its time in the Campus Theatre.
That’s when they linked up with the arts council. Donna Trammell has volunteered for the theater company for years and is a current board member of the arts council. The council is the owner of the Campus Theatre.
“Because the Campus is ours, we get some dates in the theater,” Trammell said. “We almost never use all of them. So we offered them some of our dates.”
Robbins said she jumped on the offer.
“It would be great if we had more dates,” she said. “We’re only doing three performances. But we’re thrilled to get these three dates. We’d do almost anything to get a chance to do this show.”
Robbins has led her cast and crew through a boisterous show, which they’ve put together with a spirited, DIY ethic. A huge sheet of tan fabric is quicksand, and a simple set becomes a fast-moving train and a crumbling Eqyptian tomb. A stage hand streaks across the stage with a fake bird that attacks a character.
Travis Barth and Lee said they dove into their characters.
“I’ve never had this much fun playing a character in my life,” Travis Barth said. “Otto is like every James Bond villain in one character. I think he’s three dimensional, but I think about him a lot.”
Lee plays Crummond with a ramrod-straight spine, hair that always flips back into place, and a proper English accent.
“I didn’t set out to do my own version of Alan Shearman’s performance,” Lee said. “Rik Mayall plays the same kind of character in Black Adder. But I think of him as every kind of action hero you’ve ever seen in a movie.”
Bryan Patrick, Nathan Probst and Cyrus Carillo each play a number of roles. Patrick makes the most of his vocal and accent talents as a porter and a Persian rug salesman. Carrillo plays Rosemary’s Aunt Charlotte and an ancient slave and soldier imprisoned in the tomb. Probst plays Rosemary’s long-lost uncle, and he puts on a slightly daffy bearing as Crummond’s war buddy. Melanie Barth’s Lenya is clever and ruthless, and probably smarter that Otto. Welch’s Rosemary (who can’t pronounce the letter R) is alternately sweet and lusty.
The play opens Friday. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Campus Theatre, 214 W. Hickory St. Playwright Alan Shearman will attend the Saturday night performance and a reception following the show. Tickets cost $22 for adults, $18 for senior citizens and $15 for children. For reservations, call 940-382-1915 or visit www.dentoncommunitytheatre.com.