When overworked New York Evening Sun columnist Don Marquis decided to change his perspective about the world in 1916, he discovered Archy. And then Mehitabel. Both were popular figures in the second decade of the twentieth century. And then faded from public view – only to be resurrected and adapted for stage by playwright Dan Gilvezan in the twenty-first century: “I discovered Marquis’s columns in an old book in the dusty aisles of an antiquarian bookstore and immediately fell in love with both the characters and the ideas – as well as with the delightful illustrations by George Herriman. It’s hard to believe that the columns are now over 100 years old. They remain as charming, poignant, and relevant today as when they first enchanted readers in 1916.” Eventually, Marquis parlayed his charming beings into three bestselling books.
But on to the imaginative tale of those little critters. One evening, when Don Marquis (Bill Chott) happened to return to his newspaper office late at night, he heard the clacking of his manual typewriter. When he investigated, he found a cockroach frantically hopping from key to key while composing a letter to the journalist. It turned out that the cockroach had a name – Archy (Dan Gilvezan) – and a history as a free verse poet in a previous life. Is it any wonder that he was reincarnated as a roach? But there is more. As Don and Archy become buddies, Don is introduced to a whole new world of small folk, including fleas, fruit flies, lightening bugs, and all manner of multi-footed creatures (Richard Horvitz, Kelly Stables). But the star of the evening is Mehitabel (Carolyn Hennesy), a “toujours gai” alley cat who loves her freedom and has quite a spectacular relationship history. Do you suppose that these little fellows have something of importance to offer to all of us? You’ll have to visit Archy’s Whitefire Theatre home to find out.
Director Moosie Drier helms the creative wanderings of these creatures with skill and humor. Kudos to writer/adaptor/actor Gilvezan, who does a bang-up job of portraying the delightful Archy, who manages to turn a cockroache into a very likeable and clever being with something important to say. And let’s not forget about the kittenish Mehitabel, whose street life gives new meaning to freedom. In fact, kudos to the entire ensemble cast (Gilverzan, Hennesy, Chott, Horvitz, and Stables), who have just the right amount of joi de vivre to continuously “bug” the audience.
THE SECRET WORLD OF ARCHY AND MEHITABLE is secret no more, and the audience is better for it. Congratulations for a very clever, creative look at their world – and ours – certainly a different perspective for all of us. This is a hilarious and thought-provoking piece which will charm, titillate, and warm the hearts of everyone in the theater. A winner!
THE SECRET WORLD OF ARCHY AND MEHITABEL runs through October 15, 2022, with performances at 8 p.m. on Saturdays only with one extra performance at 3 p.m. on September 17. The Whitefire Theatre is located at 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91423. Tickets are $30 (seniors $25 on Saturday 9/17 at 3 p.m. only). For information and reservations, call 818-687-8559 or go online.