Special to The Sun
Carpenter Square Theatre continues its 30th Anniversary Season with “Is He Dead?,” a fast-paced comic confection originated by the incomparable American humorist Mark Twain and adapted for modern audiences by David Ives. The comedy about a starving artist who is in debt to a greedy loan shark plays April 4-26 at 800 W. Main in downtown Oklahoma City.
Set in 1846 France, the story centers on Jean-Francois Millet, a young painter of genius, who is in love with a young lady, but in debt to a villainous art dealer, Bastien Andre. Andre forecloses on Millet, threatening debtor’s prison unless he can marry Millet’s lady. After a failed art sale, Millet’s buddies and pupils realize that only dead painters seem to achieve fame and fortune. They hatch a plan for Millet to fake his death and prosper, all the while passing himself off as his twin sister, the Widow Tillou. Once he’s a rich “widow,” Millet must pay off his debt, find a way out of a dress, return to public life and marry his love.
For his main character, Twain used the name of the actual French painter Millet who was quite popular at the time. Millet and Theodore Rousseau were painters of the Barbizon School who were almost possessed by the beauty of their native landscape. Twain seemed to appreciate that Millet’s most evocative paintings portrayed ordinary field laborers rather than wealthy patrons. Some of Millet’s best-known works are “The Angelus,” “The Gleaners,” and “Harvesters Resting.” His painting “The Sower” appears to be the inspiration for the statue called “Seed Sower” that sits on the South Oval at the University of Oklahoma. The image is also prominent on the university seal.
David Burkhart stars as the penniless artist turned wealthy widow. His best friends and pupils are Doug Monson as Chicago, Shawn Hicks as Dutchy and Terry Veal as O’Shaughnessy.
Al Bostick embodies Andre, the villainous art dealer and loan shark. Also in debt to Andre is Monsieur Leroux played by Bob Burns. His two daughters, also love interests to the poor painters, are Rodonna Carter and Jessica Bisel, while Millet’s landladies and loyal art patrons are Lindsey Rollins and Chris Burns. C.W. Bardsher portrays four characters including a British art buyer and a nosy newspaper reporter.
Rhonda Clark directs the ensemble cast with assistance from Chelsea Brown as stage manager and Brent Weber as the dramaturg. Ben Hall serves as the set designer and Marilyn Ragan is the costume designer.
Specific show times spanning four weekends are: 8 p.m. April 4-5, 11-12, and 2 p.m. April 13; 7:30 p.m. April 17 and 8 p.m. April 18-19; 7:30 p.m. April 24 and 8 p.m. April 25-25. Reservations are recommended for the intimate theatre.
“Is He Dead?” is supported in part by the Oklahoma Arts Council, National Endowment for the Arts and Allied Arts.
Regular adult tickets are $20 with discounts available for seniors, military, and groups of ten or more. Student rush tickets are only $5. “Is He Dead?” is rated G, but is recommended for those 12 and older. For more information and reservations, call the Carpenter Square Theatre box office at 232-6500 or visit online at www.carpentersquare.com.