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Slapstick and suspense in Flint Hill’s ‘Get Smart’

Joseph Deroma, a student of Homeschool Teens n Theatre, reviews “Get Smart” performed by Flint Hill School as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

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Flint Hill School’s Jordan Pasternak, Keeley McLaughlin and Ian Campbell. (Photo by Jackie Viteri)

No matter how hard he tries, Maxwell Smart just can’t live up to his surname. He blows his own cover, mistakes innocent situations for dangerous ones and inadvertently disrespects his superiors while trying to impress them. This is the mode of operation of the world famous spy, as portrayed in Flint Hill School’s production of “Get Smart.”

Ian Campbell in the title role played the not-so-average spy, equipped with all the spy gadgetry that would make any wanna-be spy jealous (yes, he had the classic telephone shoe). Maxwell is flanked by a partner who is hopelessly in love with him, Agent 99 (Keely McLaughlin). But he also has to contend with his dwarfish nemesis Mr. Big (John Curtis), who has a little bit of a Napoleon complex. Flint Hill School recreated the classic television show of the same name with a timeless play that combines the drama and suspense of a detective show with the sense of humor of a comedy.

“Get Smart” ran from 1965 to 1970 and grew to be popular with its unique fusion of slapstick comedy, mystery and suspense. The play followed Maxwell Smart with his partner, the glamorous Agent 99, as they tried to thwart the plans of an evil Russian organization, KAOS, as it tried to take down the U.S. government.

The cast streamed onto and off stage in rapid succession in many scenes. This revolving door of characters created a fast-paced template for well-controlled character chaos (not to be mistaken with KAOS). Cast synergy was evident in their onstage rapport, which helped with line recovery on numerous occasions.

Campbell was the energy powerhouse of the show. Other actors seemed to draw energy from his exaggerated mannerisms and the excitement expressed as he concocted his next foolproof plan. McLaughlin was the constant that balanced Campbell’s unpredictable nature. Steadfast and cool-headed, she supported and confronted Maxwell’s imprudent plans.

A number of other supporting actors stood out, including the Chief (Chris Halverson), who built his character around managing his frustration with Maxwell’s shortcomings. On occasion, his frustration escalated into fury, only to simmer back down to seething frustration. Zalinka’s (Aimee Marich) authentic Russian accent complimented her stern, all-business demeanor. Her unpredictable temperament balanced Mr. Big's stability.

The set consisted of three walls that resembled a large triptych. At appropriate points during the production, interesting props, including clocks, maps and pictures, were hung on this versatile backdrop. There was, however, a smattering of technical hiccups.

Flint Hill School’s production proved that in order to become a world-class international spy, you do not have to be smart, but you may have to “Get Smart.”

By Joseph Deroma, Posted by Mario Iván Oña  |  May 9, 2010; 11:31 PM ET
 | Tags: Cappies 2010  
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