The Hightower Detective Agency
March gives theatre patrons the opportunity to dwell in the era of rich socialites, crooked mob bosses, corrupt cops and gumshoe detectives. The Hightower Detective Agency, written by Dan Landsness, a local playwright and performer, and co-directed by Diane Rabehl and Ron Wilke, makes its debut this weekend as a throwback mystery comedy at the Beaver Dam Area Community Theatre.
Landsness as writer delights audiences with well-scripted dialogue smattered with one-line zingers, well-developed characters, and well-positioned humor to carry the audience from one scene to the next. Landsness as actor portrays the main character, Jason Hightower, owner of the Hightower Detective Agency. Shorter scenes move the first act along in a swifter manner than the second half of the show. What brings his characters to life is a synthesis of Landsness’ own comedic flair, a handful of folks who know how to get under the skin of the characters he’s created, and a cavalcade of experts whose abilities enhance this retro-comedy with flawless costumes, clever set design (especially the Blue Parrott Club), and the ability to carry off dialects beyond the realm of Wisconsin.
Leading cast members include Karen Pickhardt as Samantha Blackmore, a rich socialite, trying to prove her brother’s murder, Tony Kikkert as Mooch, Jason Hightower’s eyes and ears on the street, Mercy Cook as Simone, a seriously intense character who maintains her solemnity throughout, and John Stratman who upstages everyone as junior detective Jodon McHenry. Stratman possesses the natural flair of physical comedy combined with expertly exaggerated expressions that draw you to his character the entire show. The Moonlight Bay duet between Jason and Jodon is a gem. Briefer appearances by other cast members are memorable, especially the duo of Shannon and Channon, played by Barb Vockroth and Nancy Cook. Their opposites of personality feed into the solution of the mystery, conspiracy theories, mayhem and overall ambiance of the spirit of this kind of comedy. If you don’t listen carefully, it’s easy to get lost in the history, however. Nod to Wes Reshel as Paretti for his presence on stage and authenticity as a mob boss and Jason Bennett as Chester Crane.
What would move this performance from good to great by show time is an increased pace with line delivery, more polish on the dance moves, and the ability to let the hair down of those stiff cast members who might not trust themselves yet to really unleash their characters full bore. The dialogue and the details make this show and are well incorporated to create an overall ambiance of a throwback mystery. The Blue Parrott Club is as classy a joint as the narrator says it is and there’s plenty of intrigue and clues to keep you hooked from the start to a magnificent and well-acted ending.
The Hightower Detective Agency runs March 4th, 5th, 8th, 10th, 11th and 12th with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. and matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets start at $10 and are on sale at Rechek’s Food Pride or online here: