Dr. Evil is not taken seriously. And it should be: the inalienable right to a good cup of coffee is threatened. Not to mention Newark Airport.
River Company’s latest virtual offering, “Dr Evil and the Attack of the Laser Pigeons,” is a ridiculously silly half-hour game that takes the audience into the machinations of the International Council of Evil and reveals Dr. Evil for world domination.
Countess Gothma enjoys a glass of wine in her decaying castle as she officially calls the council’s monthly online meeting to order. At hand, the insidious Archduchess Arsenica in his arctic lair, the evil Prince Vladi in his ornate palace, and the evil Lord Warhammer at his home in the Scottish border regions.
A menacing musical explosion heralds the dramatic entry of Dr. Evil – in his pajamas and fluffy slippers.
The council agenda is quickly derailed by a discussion of professional attire or the lack of it, but eventually the rules of Robert’s Order prevail and the aforementioned plans for world domination are presented.
Dr. Evil has a brilliant new plan involving an army of laser pigeons, but his idea is met with ridicule only from his evil peers.
But Dr. Evil demonstrates the effectiveness of his plan by deploying his minion pigeons in the homes of council members. As explosions light up the various landscapes, the council hastily adjourned. But not until he told Dr. Evil to “go ahead with your pigeon thing.”
And he does. The audience is in on the party as Dr. Evil threatens the Mayor of Seattle, the Governor of New Jersey and all of Central America with laser destruction.
River Company is a Lincoln County non-profit organization whose mission is “to provide a local arena for artists to gain theatrical experience that promotes artistic growth.”
The company has been in the community since 1998 and has produced over 50 plays, most of them to live audiences. But since the advent of the pandemic, they have explored the art of virtual performance as a way to keep community theater alive and viable.
Judy McQuillen, a member of the River Company, which ultimately produced the play, suggested “Dr Evil and the Attack of the Laser Pigeons”. No one in the company had seen or read it, but they saw the potential.
“Why not have fun with it?” Said director Nick Azzaretti. âIt’s not a complicated game. It’s easy for kids to understand and enjoy, âand adults can laugh.
According to Azzaretti, the production was like a party. The actors embraced the spirit of the play, using simple, sometimes silly props to their advantage, and exaggerating facial expressions and accents to build their characters.
Mitchell Wellman as Dr. Evil designed his own radio controlled pigeon deployment helmet, and when Tori DeLisle as Josephine Esoteric places a strainer over her head as her own version, the public simply accepts her as part of the stupidity at the heart of the game.
The company made good use of the experience gained from previous virtual productions. âDr. Evilâ gave them even more opportunities to perform in the Zoom medium, adding visual and sound effects, and photo backgrounds all from the public domain.
These added elements reflect the collaboration between Azzaretti as director and Wellman as editor and executive producer of the play.
Wellman also inhabited the title role. âThe way he approached the character was integral to what I wanted to do with the whole piece,â Azzaretti said. While Dr. Evil could have been played as a classic villain, Azzaretti saw no reason to reproduce these exaggerated evil stereotypes.
âThe character is built on the actor’s instrument,â Azzaretti said. And Dr. Evil played by Wellman is “actually a really nice guy.”
According to Azzaretti, Wellman gave a lot of little extra touches to the character and his sense of humor and innate sweetness shines through.
âMitchell doesn’t have an evil bone in his body,â Azzaretti said.
Brian Taylor, author of “Dr Evil and the Attack of the Laser Pigeons” is an acquisitions editor and playwright for Pioneer Drama Service, a company that publishes plays and musicals for schools and theaters. community.
Taylor wrote the play in April 2020 just as the country went into lockdown. Pioneer Drama has made every effort to find shows that can be played virtually.
Taylor wrote his first play Dr. Evil in 2005, “Dr. Evil and the Kittens Basket.” His kids were watching the movie âDespicable Meâ at the time and he was inspired to write a play that combined the concept of an evil madman with something adorable. Kittens do the trick.
According to Taylor, every evil madman interrupts a show to tell the world about his evil plans. This idea led him to examine the role screens already play in the daily lives of audience members and understand how he could leverage that to create a screen-based production that seems to match the medium.
Taylor wrote “Dr. Evil and the Attack of the Laser Pigeons” in about a week. He based the play on a number of cultural references, including âDespicable Meâ and the Austin Powers films.
He fleshed out the story by referring to regional cultures of the world from Portlandia to Seattle to the tough guys in Jersey to the unruffled residents of the country’s granary. He included a wry nod to Joe Exotic; the “Tiger King” was a heavyweight when the pandemic began, and Taylor grew up in that part of Oklahoma. He thought it would be appropriate to have tigers thwarting Dr. Evil’s plans.
âIt’s not a classic. It’s not going to live on in the history of the theater, âAzzaretti said. But that’s not the point.
For Azzaretti and the members of the River Company, âDr. Evil and the Attack of the Laser Pigeonsâ is a labor of love. âIt’s what I think the theater should be,â Azzaretti said.
âDr. Evil and the Attack of the Laser Pigeonsâ features performances by Tori DeLisle, Allison Eddyblouin, Thaddeus Eddyblouin, Michael Hovance, Mike Lee, Judy Mcquillen and Christine Tupper.
All of River Company’s video productions, including “A Christmas Carol” and “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde can be viewed on his YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/3nvlV3W.
From December 1 to January 1, all donations to River Company will help the Community Housing Improvement Project (CHiP) and Ecumenical Pantry as part of the company’s annual fundraiser.
Donations can be made online at https://bit.ly/3nrBZnq or mailed to River Company, PO Box 101, Damariscotta, ME 04543.