'Chicago Caper' - Guys and molls who didn't do it

Friday, February 14, 2003

The moment you reach the top step at the River City Yacht Club you are gruffly greeted by B. Wright Wityu (Randy Barnhouse), who's toting a machine gun and a surly attitude. "What's da passwoid," demands Tony "2 Time" Tony (John Kreighbaum).

The password -- It's printed on the program B. Wright hands you -- permits entry into S.P. Keasy's Grill, located not far from the legendary gangster Hal Cappone's headquarters in Prohibition-era Chicago. Inside await an array of disreputable characters who may or may not have killed Cappone and liberated millions of dollars from his vault. Don't feel safer because District Attorney Harrow (Joe Class) is inside, too. We soon learn he should feel at home here.

Everyone has stories to tell, and it's the audience's job to figure out who needs the biggest dose of truth serum.

"The Chicago Caper," a production of the River City Players, opens tonight.

The stage at the River City Yacht Club is filled with what appear to be cases of hooch. All the action occurs among the tables and along the bar. Among others we also meet are:

Molly Awbsterr (Kate Kruse), a high society "moll."

Eddie R. Gyle (Bryce Eddings), nicknamed "Socks," a dealmaker and gambler.

Billy "the Kid" Thrower (Troy Young), a baseball pitcher who likes to play other games as well.

Silky M. Adam (Meg Ervin), the elegantly shady owner of a club where gentlemen go to be entertained.

"Boots" Legger (director Wayne Heiser), the speakeasy's proprietor.

Malissa F. Orrhot (Holly Elizabeth Lynn), a reporter with a questionable background who may have gotten too close to one of her sources.

Earnest G. Ambler (Greg Smith), a flamboyant millionaire gambler.

and Anna Maria Carlotta Sassine (Elle Anders and Kassi Lynn), a singer known as Torchy.

There are good performances in a very tricky play that requires moving around a large room and trading lines with more than 10 other actors and actresses.

Troy Young is unshowily assured as Billy "The Kid." Greg Smith plays Ernie with gusto. Lynn is fine but perhaps a little too respectable looking for a reporter.

Eddings' Socks sounds like a professional liar, and Heiser is dutifully nefarious as the bootlegger. Class is starchy as the D.A.

Kruse's Molly looks as if she likes to go where the fun is, and Ervin gives Silky some class.

Torchy will be played on alternating nights by Anders and Lynn. Both are employees at Port Cape and new to RCP. Anders in particular looks like she has done this before.

Part of this play's charm is in the ad-libbing and asides that occur while one of the characters is speaking. Barnhouse, who is the assistant director, is particularly adept. "I just want to shoot someone," he pleads with Legger.

Ruth Sauerbrunn-Winstead as the resplendently red-dressed Luv T. Asper-Rations provides nicely sung musical interludes, pauses that give the audience a chance to sort out the varying motivations and circumstances surrounding the heist. "Stormy Weather" and "Summertime" are in her repertoire. Those who have seen the movie version of "Chicago" may be reminded of Queen Latifah's Mama without the raunchiness.

Also appearing in the show are Jean Sokolofski and Debbie Barnhouse.

It can be difficult for the audience to keep track of all the different stories in "The Chicago Caper," in part due to its two-hour length. Take time to read their biographies in the program.

One change should be made in the play: the addition of a bathroom break.


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