Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Providence Players Is He Dead?

By • Jun 5th, 2013 • Category: Reviews
Is He Dead?
Providence Players: (Info) (Web)
James Lee Community Center Theater, Falls Church, VA
Through June 15th
2:30 with intermission
$18/$15 Seniors, Students
Reviewed June 2nd, 2013

Is He Dead?, a comedy by Mark Twain as adapted by David Ives, takes a comical look at what happens to an artist who is worth more dead than alive. It is true that the sales of Millet’s paintings go through the roof, but so does the comedy and mayhem when his “widow” has to continue the charade in order to keep the sales up and his creditors away. Though a little uneven and dragging in some spots with some technical problems, this look into a 19th century farce was at times, quite comical.

Patrick David gave a strong performance as both Jean Francois-Millet and the Widow Daisy Tillou. David’s timing and energy are always on the mark. His sidekick crew: Craig Geoffrion as Agamemnon ‘Chicago’ Buckner, Thane Tuttle as Hans ‘Dutchy’ Von Bismarck and Christopher Schwartz as Phelim O’Shaughnessy all showed powerful emotions that were quite over the top, but carried the comedic performance so that it was enjoyed by everyone. The three created slapstick timing bringing much laughter from the audience. Larry Craven as dastardly villain Bastien was excellent. He was entirely believable, and could be imagined tying a damsel to a set of train tracks. The cast successfully created an air of overacting and over-reacting to their contrived situations.

The lighting was a bit slow, but as the second weekend approaches and the first weekend jitters (and exhaustion?) melt away, the timing should much improve. Set Designer Raedun de Alba created a beautiful set. In Act 1 she used a rather drab, yet detailed studio apartment to create an air of poverty. All that changed in Act 2, with bright colors and attention to detail making a much cheerier setting. The many doors allowed for the farcical antics to be used to the fullest. Costume designer Robbie Snow made great use of color in her costumes, which were period appropriate.

Though at times confusing with characters hurrying through a scene, the Providence Players of Fairfax made positive use of a detailed set and situations to take a funny look at farce in the mid 19th century.

Director’s Note

So Mark Twain wrote a play. Who knew? It seems that the Providence Players are among the very first (at least, in this region) to discover Is He Dead?, but I guarantee we won’t be the last.

It was never performed in Twain’s own time, which saddened him. Perhaps because it was based on a wild version of the great Barbizon painter, Jean Francis-Millet-almost contemporary of Twain’s and it was too soon to monkey with a genius’ reputation. Or perhaps it wasn’t what was expected of Mark Twain, so it was overlooked as a play, since his ardent followers had come to expect satiric prose. The show was rediscovered by a Twain scholar, Shelley Fisher Fishkin, who found the manuscript in the archives at the University of California at Berkeley in 2003. Soon thereafter, the witty playwright David Ives adapted the play; then it was off to Broadway!

In Mr. Ives’ words, “In a larger sense you might say that Twain provided plot, I provided the subplots, he the set-ups and I the pay-offs.” He went on…”In everything I did as an adapter, I took my job not to replace Twain but to complete his work, to do the original what he himself would have done had he had 97 more years to think about it a few more plays under his belt. He turned out to be a superb collaborator. Except for the cigars, we got along just fine.”

It has been an honor to embellish the words of these two great writers with a magnificent cast of comedians, a set decorated with minute attention to verisimilitude in terms of the times and the paintings of Jean Francois-Millet, and (hopefully) the sounds of your laughter. Please sit back and enjoy! Oh – and tell your friends. Cheers!

Beth Hughes-Brown, Director


  • Agamemnon Buckner “Chicago”: Craig Geoffrion
  • Hans Von Bismarck “Dutchy”: Thane Tuttle
  • Papa Leroux: John Barclay Burns
  • Marie Leroux: Liz Mykietyn
  • Cecile Leroux: Danine Welsh
  • Jean-Francois Millet: Patrick David
  • Widow Daisy Tillou: Patrick David
  • Bastien Andre: Larry Craven
  • Madame Bathilde: Barbara Gertzog
  • Madame Caron: Susan Kaplan
  • Phelim O’Shaughnessy: Christopher Schwartz
  • M. Thorpe: Donna Naybor
  • C. Riviere: Betsy Hansen
  • Charlie: Cheryl Sinsabaugh
  • The King of France: Robbie Snow
  • The Sultan of Turkey: Amanda Snow
  • The Emperor of Russia: Nick Snow

Production Team

  • Director: Beth Hughes-Brown
  • Assistant Director: Elizabeth Stone
  • Producer: Smitty Connolly
  • Stage Manager: Beth Harrison
  • Stage Crew: Charlotte Gertzog, Paul hennesy, Mike Mattheisen, Lauren Sullivan, Janet Shadel
  • Technical Director: Chip Gertzog
  • Lighting Design: Chip Gertzog
  • Sound Design: Jimmy Gertzog
  • Technical Crew: Mario Font, Charlotte Gertzog, Michael Sinsabaugh, Bobby Welsh, Elise Welsh
  • Set Design: Raedun de Alba
  • Set Construction: Chip Gertzog, Mike Mattheisen, David Schwartz
  • Set Construction Crew: John Barclay Burns, Sara Bennett, Chris Bonner, John Coscia, Jason Damaso, Raedun de Alba, Patrick David, Melissa Dunlap, Chip Gertzog, Jimmy Gertzog, Beth Harrison, Paul Hennesy, Beth Hughes-Brown, Douglas Huttar, Mike Mattheisen, Will McLeod, Michael Sinsabaugh, Carl Schwartz, David Schwartz, Lauren Sullivan, Danine Welsh, Elise Welsh, Beth Whitehead, David Whitehead
  • Set Decoration: Paul Hennesy, Mike Mattheisen
  • Original Paintings: Paul Hennesy
  • Set Painting Design: Paul Hennesy, Mike Mattheisen
  • Set Painting Crew: Sara Bennett, Raedun de Alba, Melissa Dunlap, Chip Gertzog, Paul Hennesy, Beth Hughes-Brown, Mike Mattheisen, Lauren Sullivan, Danine Welsh, Elise Welsh, Beth Whitehead
  • Costume Design: Robbie Snow
  • Makeup Design: Katie Brown
  • Makeup and Hair Assistants: Alma Amaya, Beth Hughes-Brown, Beth Harrison, Amanda Snow, Robbie Snow
  • Properties: Andra Whitt
  • Prompter: Lauren Sullivan
  • House Management: Mike Daze
  • Playbill: Ellen Burns
  • Playbill Advertising: Jayne Victor, John Coscia, David Whitehead
  • Photography: Chop Gertzog
  • Publicity: Chip Gertzog

Disclaimer: Providence Players provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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