Seven Keys to Baldpate is Wholesome Fun
It’s a refreshing glance at a world where love at first sight, rotary phones and bestselling, 10,000-word novels still existed. But, more than anything else, it’s wholesome, theatrical fun.by Casey Nilsson, RI Monthly
Crime, deception, romance, smoking guns: 2nd Story Theatre’s latest show, Seven Keys to Baldpate, is a 100-year-old gem of a story. Written in 1913 by Rhode Island’s own Broadway man, George M. Cohan, Seven Keys feels both quaint and timely. And, according to Artistic Director Ed Shea, “They just don’t make plays like this anymore.”
He’s right. The personalities are big, the suits are snazzy, the women are gorgeous and the jokes are a little corny. But the synopsis appeals to all generations: A bestselling novelist bets a rich buddy that he can complete his next smash hit in a single night, so long as he’s left alone to work. The buddy chooses the locale — a seasonal hotel passed down to him by his late father, a desolate place with a past, maybe some ghosts, and only one key — and the checks, for $10,000, are written. Winner takes all.
Actor Ara Boghigian’s role as novelist William Hallowell Magee sets the pace for this quick, intermission-free play. Boghigian has all the charm of a turn-of-the-century slicker (tall, dark, handsome, mustachioed, sharp-tongued, you get the gist), and this role is more authentic and nuanced than the last time we saw him onstage in the Agatha Christie caper, The Mousetrap. Boghigian’s Magee is giddy like a child, eager to explore the creaky old hotel in the dead of night — and all in the name of literature.
But, as the title suggests, Magee faces more than howling winds and flouncing dust bunnies during his night of writing. A fervent reporter, played by the lovely and impeccably costumed Erin Elliott, gets wind of the bet and wants the scoop. She has a key. Crooked politicians and career criminals, played by the comedic Joe Henderson, Jeff DeSisto, Jim Sullivan, Tony Roberts and a sultry Tanya Anderson, have keys. A crazed mountain recluse, played by John Michael Richardson, hates pretty much everybody — harassment is his hobby — and even he has a key.
Seven Keys to Baldpate takes the audience on a short trip to a simpler time and place, where typewriters were the word processors of choice and bribery loot changed hands by way of a summer hotel cloaked in snow, not overseas accounts. It’s a refreshing glance at a world where love at first sight, rotary phones and bestselling, 10,000-word novels still existed. But, more than anything else, it’s wholesome, theatrical fun.