Thoughts & Musings

Cohan’s “Seven Keys to Baldpate” Is Farce At Its Best At 2nd Story

“Seven Keys to Baldpate” is an old chestnut that is still hot when done well, and 2nd Story does it very well.

by Don Fowler
  • 3rd February 20143/02/14
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Rhode Island born George M. Cohan, most famous for writing songs like “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, is also remembered for penning the popular play, “Seven Keys to Baldpate”, a farcical mystery that has survived for 100 years.

Director Shea reminds us that 2nd Story’s building is also 100 years old.

Set Designer Trevor Elliott has given us a rustic, century old Baldpate Inn, complete with fireplace and windows looking out at fast-falling snow.

Add Jessie Darrell’s vintage costumes, lighting by Steve McLellan, fast-paced direction by Shea, and 14 actors who have perfectly captured the mood of the play, and you have another 2nd Story Theatre winner.

“Seven Keys to Baldpate” is an old chestnut that is still hot when done well, and 2nd Story does it very well.

Ara Boghigian plays William Hallowell Magee, a writer who bets the inn’s owner that he can write a novel in one night. He is given the “only key” to Baldpate and spends a blustery winter evening in the summer inn accepting the challenge.

What follows is a wild night with a barrage of crazy characters, all with their own agendas, possessing six other “only keys”.

There are crooks, businessmen, politicians, a hermit, a detective, a girl reporter and others who may not be who they pretend to be.

Everyone is connected in one way or another, and their presence revolves around a large amount of money in a safe.

No one is to be trusted as the night becomes crazier and crazier. There are gunshots, so be warned. And there are twists and turns, as the writer attempts to figure out what is going on around him. And there is that “love at first sight” between the writer and the girl reporter (That’s what they called them back then, a la Lois Lane).

Boghigian is great as the central character, surrounded by equally great supporting roles, all of whom have their moments.

It was nice to see two great character actors back on stage at 2nd Story. John Michael Richardson is a hoot as the old hermit, and Tom Roberts is as sinister a CEO as can be as Jim Cargan.

And what would a murder mystery be in Rhode Island without a corrupt Mayor, played by the always-good Jim Sullivan.

Shea has chosen to do the 2-act, hour and 20 minute play in one act without interruption, and that is a good idea, as the momentum builds to a surprising conclusion, with one of the best twists ever written.

Meanwhile, in 2nd Story’s downstairs the theatre, the hysterical and popular “The Lyons” has been extended by popular demand through February 16.

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