Orange Park Community Theatre just opened One Toe in the Grave, a comedy by Jack Sharkey. You may have previously seen a Sharkey play and not realized it, as he wrote under four pseudonyms as well as his own name. He didn’t start writing for stage until in his thirties, but by the time he passed, he had over eighty published comedies, musicals, and thrillers. That the audience was laughing pretty much throughout the show is a testament not only to the cast, but to Sharkey’s wit.
Jason Kingsley (Stephen Lowe) is the treasurer for Murdock and Moran (M&M), a company that makes medicines like aspirin. However, to get his job, he lied about being married, and to make the lie work, he gave his wife an incurable disease so she wouldn’t have to entertain or attend company functions. One problem: a cure is accidentally found for the incurable disease! As a result, Jason’s boss, T.B. Murdock (Ron Price), invites himself to Jason’s apartment to ensure Jason’s wife is cured immediately. Jason now has to scramble to find someone play his sick wife while his boss is there.
First to show up is Nicki (Debbie Stithem), who completely catches Naomi (Sara Green), the housekeeper, off-guard by announcing her engagement to Jason. Close on her heels is Dr. Proctor (Carter Cheatum), who not only professes his love for Nicki, but forewarns her that Jason must already be married to have his job. After Nicki has already been introduced to Mr. Murdock as Jason’s wife, a neighbor, Poopsie (Katie Holdren), shows up and announces herself as Jason’s wife, completely infuriating Nicki. Later on, Mrs. Schyler’s niece, Vonga the Jungle Girl (Mia Shenay), enters the mix having been asked by her aunt to play Jason’s wife.
It shows when a cast enjoys working together. Lowe and Stithem as the leads support each other well, with a lot of the humorous interchange reliant on their relationship. Then you add in an indefatigable, sarcastic Green who increasingly looks like she’s drowning in sweat trying to solve her boss’ problems as they arise. Price looks like he’s going to die of a panic attack, until he finds out about the tomfoolery wrought on him, at which point he wants to jail everyone. Cheatum plays more of a straight character – maybe except for threatening everyone with a two-inch needle (or just Jason, because he wants Nicki for himself). Poopsie? Katie’s character name aptly describes it all. We last saw Mia in Dixie Swim Club as the executive; in this she was a complete deviant in every form of the word!
Directors Bill LeSeur and Vicki Lowe have set and staged this show very nicely. They opted to bring it more current than written, and it works. The set is simple and contemporary and supports the antics. The costumes follow suit and were provided by the cast.
OPCT is located at 2900 Moody Ave. in Orange Park. For reservations or information, you can go to www.opct.info, call 904-276-2599 or go to www.showtixnow.com. Their next show is the youth production, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, followed by their young adults performing the music of Queen in We Will Rock You. They close their season with The Music Man, which opens June 9th.
Of note, on their website OPCT published their 50th anniversary season. It opens with Beauty and the Beast, followed by the classic Bell, Book, and Candle, the more contemporary musical Company, then two more classics: Night of January 3rd and closing with Singing in the Rain. A very interesting mix of contemporary and classic to mark their anniversary.