Community theater has a really bad rap.
The stereotype — so much of one that it even has a meme — is that community theater is filled with local admins and shopkeepers wearing their own clothes standing in front of bland sets doing Hello Dolly or The Odd Couple (over and over again).
Nothing could be farther from the truth in downtown Brooklyn where the venerable Heights Players — now in its [wait for it] 66th year — presented a work fresh from its off-Broadway run. And they did it will all the bells and whistles one might expect from a professional production.
One of New York’s foremost playwrights, Doug DeVita was in the audience for the premiere of NELL DASH, THE GRUESOMELY MERRY ADVENTURES OF AN IRREPRESSIBLY SENSIBLE CAPITALIST WITH A VENGEANCE (Nell Dash on second reference).
This uproarious high-speed chase around the stage featuring over 20 characters played by under 10 actors tells the story of a 19th century ingenue-type who — like all 19th century ingenue-types — was cheated and abused by her unscrupulous relatives — as most were then — and her struggle to get her fortune and her dignity back. Sounds pretty tragic right? Wrong. DeVita has taken all the elements found in a classic Dickens/Austen novel and tossed in a bit of Agatha Christie, a lot of Sweeney Todd, and then marinated it in his trademark razor-sharp wit taking no prisoners in terms of Easter eggs and not-so-subtle double-entendres. All he needed was to rename “Bedlam” to Dr. Seward’s Hospital and he referenced EVERY Victorian novel you read in High School.