‘Big Dig’ deserves rave review, encoreAn excursion into the world of culture Saturday night found Billy Pirkola at the Douglas County Historical Society’s building on John Avenue.
By: By Mike Granlund and Don Leighton and their alter egos, Billy Pirkola and Lance Boyle, Superior Telegram
An excursion into the world of culture Saturday night found Billy Pirkola at the Douglas County Historical Society’s building on John Avenue.
The occasion was the play “The Big Dig” put on by the DCHS History Theater. The price of admission would have been satisfied even if there wasn’t a play, as the historic building that began in 1925 as a Swedish Lodge, called the Vasa Temple, served as a perfect venue for the play, written by local playwright Teddie Meronek.
The history was dripping from all the items and displays housed in the makeshift theater. In fact, even the audience of paying patrons represented a glimpse of Superior’s past: the former owner of the A & W; our former longtime Assemblyman; the previous owner of Eddie’s restaurant; a former Spartan wrestling coach; and many, many more familiar faces that escaped identification but evoked memories of casual acquaintence.
The play itself, cleverly written in reference to the “Big Dig” going on this summer as Superior’s north Tower Avenue is rebuilt.
Many of the actors served double-duty as scenes began in the present day and then harkened back to Superior in 1921.
The acting was superb as the community theater was able to procure actors of all ages. The play began with the construction workers discovering a body deep within the ‘Dig.’ Reading accounts of the find, a Chicago lady motored to Superior to report that she knew who the victim was. Her grandmother had kept a meticulous diary while attending Superior Normal School, chronicling the events of 1921 that resulted in the dastardly deed.
The play then traveled back to 1921, bringing the grandmother’s diary to life and ultimately revealing the answers to the mystery of the discovered body. The play’s final scene returned to present-day Superior with the ending both revealing and unanticipated.
We refuse to divulge the final ending here as those seeking answers did not fork over the paltry admission fee; you will have to ask one of the actors. We do assure you, though, that it was great. The Flo, Karl, and Nell of 1921, were played by Naomi Lear, Robert McGrady and Sannah Arvidson-Hicks, who seem to be budding thespians. David and Dylan Johnson were crowd favorites as construction workers and thugs. Jen Dobbins got to show off her various acting skills with three disparate roles —project manager, librarian, and singer. Marlys Johnson who played Nell’s granddaughter of 2013 and Victoria Main, who played the present day Superior police detective were very credible in their roles. Tim Sislo served well as the piano player as did Warren Bender as the bartender. The most realistic rendition was that of Barbara Reyelts as a news reporter. That gal has a future in acting. John Center as Bootlegger Joe did a terrific job, with a perfectly clear voice to listen to and an obvious zeal for his work. Jon Winter who had extended our writer with a personal invitation to the production, was probably our favorite player. He described his role as minor, but his mysterious character was the ultimate portrayal. The real heroes of “The Big Dig,” though, were two people who did not even appear in the play.
Teddie Meronek did a fantastic job writing a tale that incorporates Superior’s past and present. Her sense of humor, historic accuracy and tenacious research made this production a success. Kathy Laakso, the exuberant director of the Douglas County Historical Society, served as co-director of the play with Kim Collins. Laakso’s relentless passion for her work is a major part of the success of “The Big Dig” and DCHS.
These two are true gems in Superior.
Being our first crack as artistic critics, Billy found the production to be excellent. We do have two criticisms, though. The first is that “The Big Dig” should have been required viewing for everyone in Douglas County and the second is that the candy we swiped from Guenard’s Candy Store display had a plastic flavor.
Boyleing in the Pirkolater:
Others who played a big part in the Big Dig behind the scenes include: Stage Manager Brianne McDonnell, Construction and designer Edwin Johnson, artist Bill Gedde, stage crew members Jillene Johnson, Vi LaBounty, and Bob LaBounty, box office people Joanne Stack and Geraldine Hughes, house concierge Joe Mann and actors Ted Pellman and Barbara McPherson who had this night off.
History Theater plans another production in the fall. You can be sure Billy will be there and will even try to convince Lance to DVR that evening’s episode of Green Acres (and Arnold Ziffel) and make it to the play.