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The Battle of Shallowford, a charming but lightweight comedy by Winston-Salem, NC dramatist and screenwriter Ed Simpson, impishly imagines what would happen on a quiet Sunday night at Burton Mock’s General Store in the small N.C. town of Shallowford (allegedly modeled on Simpson’s hometown of Lewisville), if the excitable locals had listened to Mercury Theatre on the Air director Orson Welles’ inflammatory Oct. 30, 1938 Halloween broadcast of The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, and somehow though thought that the Martians actually had landed in New Jersey, and were rapidly working their way south to the Tar Heel State.
The current Raleigh Little Theatre production, staged with warmth and wit by long-time RLT artistic director Haskell Fitz-Simons, stars Kirsten Ehlert as Ruthie Mock, the storekeeper’s starry-eyed daughter, and Jason Justice as “Loony” Lonny Hutchins, the class nerd who loves science-fiction and suddenly finds his secret crush on Ruthie requited during the exigencies in the moment. When there puppy love goes into overdrive, because Ruthie thinks the world is about to end, both Ruthie and the play lose some of their innocence.
Timothy Cherry and Shawn Smith are highly amusing as bickering buddies Clunette Campbell and Roy Sprinkle; and Michael Saintomas is good as Ruthie’s former beau Dewey Sowers, a stuck-on-himself football letterman and all-around Big Man on Campus. Pat Berry is a bit bland as Burton Mock, but Don Smith is very funny as fussbudget high-school teacher Fred Martin, and Phil Lewis and David Corlett provide considerable comic relief as taciturn Newsome Jarvis and dimwitted “Doodad” Jarvis.
Set designer Rick Young has done a magnificent job of creating Mock’s General Store and post office in glorious detail, costume designer Jenny Butler has dressed the cast in a colorful assortment of 1930s fashions, lighting designer Jim Zervas expertly illuminates the phlegmatic first act and the frantic second act, and sound designer Becca Easley skillfully interweaves snippets from The War of the Worlds and other vintage radio broadcasts into the action.
The Battle of Shallowford might not be a must-see comedy, but it is a pleasant way to spend a fall evening (or an afternoon). Watching the chaos that ensues when the unaware finally hear and overreact to the series of alarming news bulletins that leaven Orson Welles’ infamous broadcast is a lot of fun, but never the laff riot that might be expected.
Raleigh Little Theatre presents The Battle of Shallowford Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 18-20, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 21, at 3 p.m. in RLT’s Cantey V. Sutton Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $18 ($15 students and seniors), except 410 Oct. 7th. 919/ 821-3111 or or via etix @ the presenter's site. Note: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive listening devices are available for all shows. Raleigh Little Theatre: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/performances/07-08/shallowford.html [inactive 9/09]. The Battle of Shallowford: http://www.mirthmaster.com/shallowford.htm [inactive 9/09]. Ed Simpson: http://www.mirthmaster.com/ [inactive 9/09].