Who knew a 20-cent toy could create so much drama?
The Oakland Community Theater Company brings Christmas in June for its 2018 melodrama, a localized rendition of John Burkhart’s “The Villain’s Secret.” The group is also calling it “How the Egg Almost Spoiled Christmas.”
Featuring a nine-person cast, the play tells the story of Lilly Lovestruck (Bette Keehley), who purchases a toy egg as a Christmas gift for a local orphan girl named Molly (Aurianna VanHouten). The villain, played by Dana Basque, tries to take the egg before Lovestruck can present it.
Keehley describes Basque as an excellent villain, making him the perfect choice for Sylvester S. Stoneheart. Stoneheart is a comical bad guy who originally stole the egg that is such a focal point of the script, lost it, and now wants it back. He is willing to do anything to get it.
The drama continues with a love story between Lovestock and an insurance salesman named Rex Robust (Michael Blessing) that grows from first meeting to a proposal in just two days. A couple of busybody ladies were added for a bit of zest and a local touch.
Interaction with the crowd, both on stage and in the form of prompt cards, helps to make the play unique. Several asides add humorous details to each character. The audience is able to learn things about characters that others on stage may not know.
Many of the actors are longtime members of the Oakland Community Theater, ranging from 15-year veterans to brand new faces. Both Blessing and Derek Blodgett (who plays a somewhat pompous older gentleman named Percy Pencilpoint) said they both got the roles they desired.
“I’m in love with the character,” Blodgett said. “An accident happened with the accent, he wasn’t supposed to be British. But I went on stage and my lines accidentally came out British. Bette loved it, so Percy became British.”
Blessing didn’t expect to get such a prominent role, though he was hoping to play either Robust or Stoneheart.
“(Robust) is a little harder then the original role I was meant to have, which was a write in with just a few lines,” said Blessing.
The Oakland Community Theater Company has performed for the last 15 years. Each year, the company purchases a basic script and makes it theirs. They move the setting to Oakland and change bits of the story.
“We like to write in extra characters for our loyal members and much of the time they turn out to be the funniest parts of the plays,” said Keehley, who is both the director and an actor for the play.
Last year, the company added piano accompaniment, which they say really enhances the performances. They have long time local support for lighting and sound, but most set construction, decorations and props are created by the Company members.
But why Christmas in June? Keehley hopes that the suggestion of colder weather might help people feel cooler in the early summer heat.
“We just want (the audience) to come and enjoy an afternoon or evening and laugh,” Keehley said. “We just want the audience to get into it.”