�THE Nit wits�: Creating laughter among the chaos
By TERRY MATHEWS | News-Telegram Arts Editor

David Woody is a brave man. The veteran director took on the challenge of managing 27 actors, a crew of eight, and a play in three acts for the Sulphur Springs Community Players’ latest production, "The Nit Wits."

"We had a cast of 27," Woody said after Tuesday night’s dress rehearsal. "And everybody has their own lives and their own things going on. Scheduling was interesting."

In fact, the first time everyone was on stage together was Monday night, but the troop gelled in a hurry. By curtain time tomorrow, they should be ready for a live audience.

The play begins with young Tommy Winter (Patrick Whitehead) anxiously pushing his parents out the door on their way to a weeklong vacation. Tommy needs money to go to college in the fall and he has hatched a scheme to get rich quick.

It seems Tommy has run an ad in the local newspaper, advertising his services as Dr. Summer, an esteemed psychologist. He figures to make a bundle while his parents are away, and he enlists the services of his friend Steve to act as his "assistant."

Chaos comes in the form of eight patients, in varying states of distress, who pile into the Winter household at an alarming speed. 

Constance Dinwiddle, (Virginia Alberts) can’t seem to leave men alone. Can Dr. Summer cure her cravings?

Henry Short (Michael Dodd), who resembles Daddy Warbucks, is certain his wife is cheating on him. What would the doctor do in Short’s place?

T.T. Trumball (Rex Talmage) has lost his sight and his hearing and is afraid his mind will go next. 

Maude Middleton (Melissa Bilyeu) is compelled to jump off things and wants the good doctor to make her stop.

Bert Baxter (Tony Glasscock) likes to talk really loud and wield really sharp knives. 

SallyJean Gould (Andrea France) thinks she’s being followed by really big men. Will Dr. Summer make them leave her alone?

Milton Geer (Steve Janway) spends his days in sandals and a toga, spouting poetry and eating a lot of Pez.

Madeline Short (Cheryl Nortin), Henry’s flirtatious spouse, enjoys sharing her opinions with anyone who will listen.

The story begins to resemble a Chinese fire drill, complete with people popping in and out of doors, hiding behind furniture and even forming a conga line at one point. 

There is a plot twist at the end of the second act that will have the audience scratching their heads during intermission, but all is revealed and resolved by the final curtain.

Woody and his cast are to be applauded for tackling a script this complicated. In less accomplished hands, confusion could have very well overwhelmed the plot

Although every member of the cast held their own on the crowded boards, three performances stand out.

Whitehead spends the entire play on stage and carries an enormous load. 

"I don’t usually have this many lines," Whitehead said. "But I like a challenge."

The young actor recently spent about six months working as an entertainer at Disney World. He must have put the time to good use, because he commands the stage and manages the chaos spinning around him.

Whitehead attends college at Texas A&M University-Commerce, where he is majoring in architecture design.

"Acting is my main goal." Whitehead said. "But architecture is my back-up plan."

Virginia Alberts didn’t have to do much research to play a person with issues. She is a retired school counselor who has also had a private counseling practice.

"I’ve watched and reflected," Alberts said. "And I have empathy for people."

Alberts is an expert physical comedienne and plays Miss Dinwiddle full out, with no holes barred. She has some of the best moments in the production.

Also of mention is Tony Glasscock, who makes the audience jump every time he yells a line or holds up another knife. Woody says this is Glasscock’s first time in front of the footlights. You’d never know it from the way he handled his part.

"The Nit Wits" opens tomorrow night at Main Street Theatre, 225 Main St., with performances Friday and Saturday night and continuing next week on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. 

Tickets are usually $8. Reservations, which are recommended, can be made by calling the theatre at 903-885-0107.

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