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‘The Secret World of Archy & Mehitabel’ brings the delightful musings of New York Evening Sun columnist Don Marquis to life on stage at the Whitefire Theatre.
What could possibly come of the strange collaboration between a tiny, six-legged creature whose ancestors walked with the dinosaurs, and an overworked, overwrought newspaper man in New York City? Adapted for the stage by Dan Gilvezan, the world premiere of The Secret World of Archy & Mehitabel brings the beloved New York Evening Sun columns by journalist Don Marquis to life. Moosie Drier directs for a September 10 opening at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks, where performances continue every Saturday through October 15.
Unable to sleep, newspaper columnist “The Boss” (Bill Chott, whose credits include the recent film Mid-Century and the upcoming Netflix series Monster) arrives at his office unusually early one morning, only to find a rather large cockroach hopping up and down on the keys of his Remington manual typewriter. It turns out that Archy (Gilvezan, seen as Bette Davis’ agent in Feud and Baskets on FX) may be an insect… but he has the soul of a poet. Archy’s best friend, the “toujours gai” alley cat Mehitabel (Emmy Award-winning actress Carolyn Hennesy, known to millions as Diane Miller on General Hospital) just might have been Cleopatra in a past life. Each of the various spiders, flies, gnats, rats, ticks, fleas and other denizens of the underside, personified by Richard Horvitz (Zim in Invader Zim, Billy in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy) and Kelly Stables (Superstore, The Exes), has its own unique personality and worldview.
“I discovered Marquis’s columns in an old book in the dusty aisles of an antiquarian bookstore, and immediately fell in love with both the characters and the ideas—as well as with the delightful illustrations by George Herriman,” says Gilvezan. “It’s hard to believe that the columns are now over 100 years old. They remain as charming, poignant and relevant today as when they first enchanted readers in 1916.”
An original score has been composed for the production by jazz musician Dan West, who will punctuate the action with incidental music played live on stage, and choreographer/dancer Buckley Sampson has created a special dance for Mehitabel. The rest of the creative team includes scenic designer Jeff G. Rack and lighting, sound and projections designer Nick Foran. The Secret World of Archy & Mehitabel is produced by Joselle Celine.
Don Marquis (pronounced MAR-kwiss) began work for the New York newspaper The Evening Sun in 1912, where he edited a daily column, “The Sun Dial,” for 11 years. In 1922, he left The Sun for the New York Tribune, where his daily column, “The Tower” (later “The Lantern”), was a great success. He regularly contributed columns and short stories to the Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s, and his work also appeared in Harper’s, Scribner’s, Golden Book and Cosmopolitan. Marquis’s best-known creation, developed in 1916, was Archy, a cockroach who had been a free-verse poet in a previous life and who supposedly left poems on Marquis's typewriter by jumping on the keys. Archy typed only lower-case letters, without punctuation, because he could not operate the shift key. Other characters developed by Marquis include an egomaniacal toad named Warty Bliggins Freddy the Rat, a reincarnated poet of Archy’s acquaintance and Broadway, a lightning bug with delusions of grandeur, all of whom make an appearance in The Secret World of Archy & Mehitabel. Another of Marquis’s many recurring characters was the “Old Soak,” who was the subject of two books, a hit Broadway play (1922–23), a silent film (1926) and a talkie starring Wallace Beery (1937). Marquis’s Archy and Mehitabel columns were compiled into three bestselling books during his lifetime: “Archy and Mehitabel” (1927), “Archy's Life of Mehitabel” (1933), and “Archy Does his Part” (1935), each illustrated by George Herriman, the creator of “Krazy Kat.” The earliest book, “Archy and Mehitabel,” has never gone out of print to this day.
The Secret World of Archy & Mehitabel runs September 10 through October 15, with performances every Saturday at 8 p.m. and one matinee performance on Saturday, Sept. 17 at 3 p.m. General admission to all performances is $30. At the matinee only, senior tickets are available for $25 and family packs (2 adults and 2 kids or 1 adult and 3 kids) can be purchased for $100. The Secret World of Archy & Mehitabel is appropriate for ages 10 and up.
The Whitefire Theatre is located at 13500 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks, CA 91423.
For reservations and information, including up-to-date Covid policies on the day of each performance, call (818) 687-8559 or go to www.whitefiretheatre.com.
Presenter / Producer: Whitefire Theatre
Theater > Theatrical Comedy
Event Phone: 818-687-8559
13500 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks CA 91423
LA - San Fernando Valley
Performance Dates: 9/10/2022 - 10/15/2022
Additional performance at 3:00 PM on September 17
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