BAR HARBOR — The curtain will close this weekend on a terrific theater season for Mount Desert Island High School with the final performances of “The Curse of Ravensdurn,” a ridiculously fun gothic chiller presented as a 1940s radio play in six distinct parts, which directors Frank Bachman and Chris Dougherty divvied up between them.
Normally, the high school puts on two plays in the spring, with one weekend of performances for each. But this collaboration has made it possible for them to not only run the show for two weekends, but also pick a play that has a large cast.
The 21-member cast performing this tale of hilarious horror for a radio audience is a mixture of Higgins Demas stage veterans and newbies. It’s a good mix, as they are all thoroughly invested in their roles as both radio actors and the quirky characters they are playing. Most of them play more than one character.
The actors stand before microphones, scripts in hand to tell their installments of the tale, which is occasionally interrupted by delightful commercial pitches and jingles.
Initially it was troubling that only a few of the actors seemed to be referring to their scripts in their hands and simply waved them about. But as the story evolved, this trifle was forgotten.
Without giving too much away, the plot revolves around a venerable old British manse, populated by generations of the eccentric Ravensdurn family (imagine a raven cawing whenever the family’s name is mentioned).
One of the eccentricities is that the male heirs tend to gamble away the family fortune, which, when the play opens is why three of the Ravensdurn (caw! caw!) brothers are plotting to marry a trio of silly sisters whose low social status is ameliorated by their great wealth. It all involves love potions and magic mirrors and such, and just as you think you know where it’s all going the story jumps to an entirely different time and setting, where a couple of dowdy matrons vie to declaim their dreadful poems and stories and gossip about the Ravensdurn (caw! caw!) family. There is also some rigmarole about a fabulous jewel being stolen from the eye of a pagan idol, which is all terribly confusing until it starts to knit together in subsequent installments.
It would be impossible, given how effectively each of the actors portrayed the 30 or so characters that pop up from time to time, era to era, to choose a single standout performance.
Colby Bennoch, Eric Graves and Zach Uliano were great fun as the three feckless Ravensdurn (caw! caw!) siblings in Act 1, as were Lily Crikelair, Anna Redgate and Moxie McBreairty as the annoying sisters they are trying to bag. McBreairty as the sister Sybil does nothing but bray and giggle in this scene and she is a hoot. She is equally hilarious holding forth as the widowed Lady Ravensdurn (caw! caw!) who managed to misplace her son in Act 4.
As the two dueling dowagers in Act 2, Rawl Blackett and Logan Wilbur take annoying to a whole new level with their nonsense about some historic skirmish, and fairies in the garden, respectively.
Blackett is also terrific in her subsequent roles as an officious housekeeper and a grizzled handyman in Act 5. Irene Choi is wonderfully clueless as Lord Ravensdurn in Act 3, where the curse of Ravensdurn (caw! caw!) is revealed, and his “friends” sweat bullets as they await the birth of a new heir.
All of the six acts in this play are outrageous and fun. Act 4, though, involving characters with names like Pupu, Squiggles, Fluffy, Eggs and Dididopopopolous, offered perhaps the most fast-paced hilarity as this gaggle of gooseheads process the claim of a stranger who purports to be the new heir.
Or wait, maybe the most hilarious is Act 5, in which all the characters are attempting to hide the corpse of a recently deceased Earl of Ravensdurn (caw! caw!).
Well, they are all great fun. Each and every actor gave it his or her all. Even those crows, voiced by Foley artist Evelyn Zumwalt who was ably assisted in the sound effects department by Atty Brown, were super fun with spot on timing. My only gripe here is that they couldn’t find a better creaky door sound. The one they used sounds more like a jingle.
A huge part of what made this all such a success was Marilee Marchese’s costumes and the team who did the hair and make-up. When Hailey Leonardi stepped up to the microphone in Act 5 as the marvelous Pamela Mainway, it was like time travel.
Carlene Hirsch’s set was perfect, Piper Charron’s lighting evocative and Peter Benson’s organ music spooky.
The remaining performances are Friday, May 10 and Saturday, May 11, at 7 p.m.