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Through 10 episodes and a change of scene from the first floor of the Page-Walker Arts & History Center in Act I to the third floor of the historic Cary, NC building in Act II, the Cary Players’ community-theater production of Twain by the Tracks hummed right along, thanks to sprightly staging by director Debra Zumbach Grannan.
The spicy series of monologues, dialogues, and one-acts penned by Mark Twain (nee Samuel Langhorne Clemens, 1835-1910) began with a two-hander, “Encounter with an Interviewer,” in which Tracy Fulghum — sans the typical moustache and fright wig, but brandishing Twain’s trademark stogie — torments a nosy but inexperienced newspaper interviewer played by Nixon Ball. Fulghum’s crusty characterization of the American humorist was a winner.
Next up was a one-act spoof of all things congressional, adapted by Jules Tasca and entitled “Cannibalism in the Cars.” K. Sridhar was a hoot as a conductor; and Harvey Sage, Tom Haynes, Mark Mickunas, Greg Tarsa, Tracy Fulghum, Jerry Nowell, and Phil Lowden tickled the audience’s funny bone with their outrageous antics as congressmen, starving on a snowbound train.
In “A Story Without an End,” Twain/Storyteller Harvey Sage spins a delightful yarn—a shaggy-dog story, actually—that starred Tracy Fulghum as a nervous suitor to Sarah Bunch, who must pass the muster of his true love’s mother (Julie Keely) and her friends (Sharon Galluzzo and Leslie Kelly). The quixotic errand that he undertakes illustrates the old Clare Boothe Luce adage, “No good deed goes unpunished.”
“Medieval Romance” chronicled a series of merry misadventures as the King and Queen of Klugenstein (Mark Mickunas and Laurel Wetzork) tried to fool the old Duke of Brandenburg (Harvey Sage) to secure that dukedom for their daughter Conrad (Alison Davis), whose drag disguise fools the amorous Constance (Lindsay Kilgore), who pursues Conrad with a vengeance.
Mark Mickunas opens Act II with a charming poetic monologue called “The [Mississippi] River at Sunrise”; Nicola Lefler and Christopher McKittrick were amusing as a fearful mother and her hopelessly henpecked husband in “Membranous Croup”; Trevor Phillips and Russell Kinne entertained as Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, discussing a “Cure for Warts”; Tim Corbett robustly retold “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”; and Laurel Wetzork stole the show with her performance as a hyperactive schoolteacher in “Tom [Sawyer] and Becky [Thatcher]’s Engagement.”
The evening’s final offering, “Mrs. McWilliams and the Lightning,” starred Angela Lowden as a high-strung wife deathly afraid of thunderstorms and Jerry Nowell as the long-suffering husband who nearly kills himself trying to make his wife feel safe.
Cary Players: http://www.caryplayers.org/ [inactive 3/09]. Page-Walker Arts & History Center: http://www.townofcary.org/depts/prdept/facilities/pwhome.htm [inactive 10/09]. Mark Twain in His Times (courtesy University of Virginia): http://etext.virginia.edu/railton/index2.html.