Something’s rotten in ‘Minden Diggings’
by Jo Rafferty
Much of the audience of almost 100 seemed to forget themselves at the Friday night performance of “Mischief in Minden or Dexter Done Wrong” presented by the Douglas County Historical Society and performed by the Misfits Theater Group of Dayton.
The entire main room was filled, with extra chairs brought in, at the Carson Valley Museum & Cultural Center in Gardnerville.
Although the wine and beer served could have contributed to the merriment, by the end of the two-hour melodrama, and throughout the show, people were participating in oohs and aahs, boos, hisses and singing that the players invited them to do.
Singer and guitarist Mike Maloney, who opened with an hour-long performance of old country favorites, said he thought he was not at his best Friday evening.
However, his renditions of songs like “Ring of Fire,” “You Are My Sunshine,” “Silver-haired Daddy,” dedicated to his father and “I Walk The Line,” a tribute to an old family friend, Johnny Cash, seemed well received by the audience who joined in with singing and cat calls.
Some of them yelled out, asking if he would take requests, but he declined, saying last time he did he was requested to “leave.”
Maloney went on with the show, mixing in humor, playing his Gretsch Country Gentleman electric guitar and singing in a voice that, if your eyes were closed, a woman in the audience told him could have been that of his childhood friend, Cash.
The play was a typical melodrama, over-acted well, and despite its length seemed to get more reaction from the crowd as it went along.
The villain, Dexter DeVille, played by Mark Grzebyk, brought forth boos from the audience when he found out the Wimple sisters, Marsha and Hortensia, played by Jan Duke and Carol Bauer, were going to mine the claim their dearly departed daddy left them in Minden Diggings.
“Return soon with that gold dust, you sweet imbeciles,” DeVille said, as the crowd booed and hissed.
DeVille is afraid when Jon Doe, played by Dan Rice, shows up representing the office of the Interstate Departmental Investigation of Technical Systems, (IDIOTS) in Carson City.
He manages to keep Doe from discovering he is stealing gold from miners for a while, by sending a love-stricken Lucretia Lonelyeyes, played by Gail Gundersen, in Doe’s direction.
“That will keep him busy,” said DeVille. “He, he, he.”
Lonelyeyes, who wishes to experience the refined life, eventually realizes Doe is throwing her over for Marsha and breaks into the song, “Bird in a Gilded Cage.”
Marsha Wimple and Doe broke into the, “Marsha, John, Marsha, John” routine, originated by humorist Stan Freeberg in the 1950s.
The Wimple sisters performed a duet about sticking together as sisters, the Card Girl, played by 11-year-old Kiersten Smithson Kinkel, also sang a solo, as well as another solo sung by Doe.
There were parts that were borderline risqué, and DeVille’s dimwitted assistant Billy Jean Butts, played by Karen Brinkoetter, stole some of the scenes with her hillbilly-type character and hilarious lines.
DeVille almost shot himself when she came back with some “fresh mints” instead of “refreshments,” and told her to stop chattering and “shut your face.” Butts proceeded to try to do what he asked her to do. Because of her mistreatment by DeVille, someone in the audience yelled, “Poor Billy Jean.” “I know,” she answered, never getting out of character.
Hortensia was another one who never left character and was always “on,” according to one audience member.
It wasn’t long before Doe smelled “something rotten in Minden Diggings,” when he saw DeVille switching bags of gold for fools gold. DeVille’s plan was foiled and the entire cast chased him around the room behind the audience.
In the end, Hortensia invited Lonelyeyes and another character Lei Minn, played by Erin Copp, to come with her to a school for ladies. DeVille said he’d marry Henrietta Steindrinker, played by Andra Woolman, and Hortensia broke into the song, “Happy Days Are Here Again.” Apparently the audience agreed as they sang along.
“Mischief in Minden” was written and directed by Tony Thornburg of Dayton and his daughter Cynthia Wilen. Tony’s wife, Kay, was the stage manager, the sound technician was Joyce Long, the video technician was Roger Long and the lights and make-up person was Dianne Mcullough.
Donnis Thran of the historical society was the event coordinator and members of the Douglas County Historical Society and others volunteered to sell tickets, donate snacks and run the snack and drink bar.
Two “Misfits” members Richard Sowers, aka “Spaghetti Fingers” played the piano, and Patt B. Cunningham was the mistress of ceremonies for both the Friday night and Saturday night performances.
The Misfits Theater Group, a non-profit organization, will present another melodrama, a continuation of “Dexter Done Wrong,” in March at the Odeon Hall in Dayton. For more information, call 246-2484.
The proceeds from “Mischief in Minden” were split in half between the museum and the Misfits.
Tickets sold for $15. Both performances were virtually sold out, however, the second performance on Saturday was not as well attended due to the weather, according to Grace Bower, president of the Douglas County Historical Society.
This was the second melodrama the museum has presented since the original production “Whistle Stop,” written by historical society member John Smith, was presented in November. “Whistle Stop” will return for repeat performances in during the Minden Centennial Celebration on July 2.
“Has-been who never was”
Entertainer Mike Maloney of Minden calls himself “the has-been who never was.”
He said he calls himself that because of events that prevented him from “making it.” Once, record producers chose Kenny Rogers to sing “The Gambler” instead of Maloney, and another time a record producer with his recording equipment, who was on his way to a Nashville studio to meet and record Maloney’s music, crashed his car and was killed.
Maloney has lived and performed across the lower 48 states and his first solo was at age 5.
Besides singing, he enjoys acting, and has a two-hour chautauqua about his great uncle Henry Comstock, and does living history reenactments from the 1800s through the 1900s, according to the “Mischief in Minden” program.