Perhaps the most honest criticism of “Bullshot Crummond,” the inaugural offering at Brobdingnag (a.k.a. L.P. Repertory) Dinner Theatre, came from William Durkin, one of the new playhouse’s founders and co-director of the show.
Looking abashed but smiling after opening night Friday, Durkin apologized to the audience for what he had to admit was one of the most technically flawed productions he had ever seen. Hemming and hawing a bit, Durkin thanked the crowd for not slinking away during intermission.
It was a good-natured response to an evening that verged on the disastrous. Actors knocked over scenery, props seemed to fight back, sound cues went off and on at the wrong times, often swallowing dialogue. There was even trouble in the kitchen--the shortage of cups, glasses, even coffee creamer made for scrambling waitresses.
Oh well. LPRDT, an offshoot of the L.P. Repertory in Tustin (known for its Lilliput Players children’s theater), had canceled a few previews earlier in the week because it physically was not ready. By the looks of the house, in a Tustin mini-mall within eyesight and earshot of the Costa Mesa Freeway, it would have been smart to delay the official opening for a few days as well--at least until the walls were painted.
Most of the crowd--regular patrons of the small Tustin community theater--seemed in a forgiving mood and accepted the production’s many problems, and Durkin’s embarrassment, in stride. But as one woman said later, “They sure have a lot of work to do, don’t they?”
One thing that can be said about “Bullshot Crummond” is that it can take a licking. This gassy, seltzer-in-the-face spoof of the British detective--especially writer Hector McNeil’s suave 1920s creation, Bulldog Drummond--is so crass and corny that it seems to welcome stage pratfalls, even when they are unintended.
In strokes as broad as a child’s finger painting, “Bullshot” follows the silly misadventures of Crummond (Jon Motil), nincompoop and sleuth, as he matches his abbreviated wits with the nasty Otto Von Brunno (Jason Logan Harris) and his leggy moll, Lenya Von Brunno (Jil Foor), who, in this production, must have been modeled after Boris and Natasha of “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.”
Crummond, with his prim love interest Rosemary (Carla Jones) trailing along, finds himself in a series of uncomfortable jams. That is about all anybody needs to know. Oh yeah, against all this foolishness are some not-so-subtle tweaks at being British, which, according to the perspective of “Bullshot’s” writers (Ron House--who, incidentally, attended Friday’s performance--Diz White, John Neville-Andrews, Alan Shearman and Derek Cunningham) must amount to being very stupid.
Despite the comedy’s lack of consistent humor and the technical miscues, the actors gamely tried to work up some slapsticky energy by getting physical and attacking their lines with outlandishly bad accents. They even succeeded on a few (very few) occasions. But when one of the most remarkable moments belonged to Rosemary--as Crummond accidentally swung her, head first, into a backdrop--you know the night had to be a long one.
A Brobdingnag (L.P. Repertory) Dinner Theatre production. Directed by William Durkin and Sarah Coleman. With Jil Foor, Jason Logan Harris, Mark Rydzynski, Jon Motil and Carla Jones. Set by Byron A. Taylor. Music and lighting by William Durkin. Plays Tuesday through Saturday at 8:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. through Dec. 18 at 15732 D Tustin Village Way, Tustin. Tickets: $14-$25 including meal. (714) 835-9611.