By Shari Goldstein Stern
What’s “Black & White” and technicolor all over? Picture “Casa Blanca,” “The Third Man” and the other classic 1930s’ and 1940s’ murder mysteries. Then picture Nazi soldiers in the mid-1940s. Next, remember “The Jetsons.” And now think time travel.
It’s all there as playwright Kurt Kleinmann and Pegasus Theatre take you back and forward through history in “The Color of Death!” now playing at the Charles W. Eisemann Center for Performing Arts through Jan. 19.
If by now you’re a friend of the inept but endearing detective Harry Hunsacker and his paid-by-the-hour friend and assistant, Nigel Grouse (along with Lt. Foster of the real police), you’re going to love Kleinmann’s latest play. Scott Nixon inherited the roll of Hunsacker from Kleinman eight years ago, and he’s filled the original’s shoes well. Nigel is still portrayed by Ben Bryant, and Lt. Foster continues to be played by Chad Cline. Each is polished in his role after years of rehearsal, although they agree each new play is a challenge. Meeting the challenge, Michael Serrecchia returns for fresh take in directing the experienced actors, and for the new twist in Act 2 of 3.
Set in mid-1940s Germany, Hunsacker’s latest quest is to solve another murder mystery, this one set in a secret laboratory in the Bavarian Alps. It’s the lab of a mad scientist, Dr. Franz Beedlemann, who bears a striking resemblance to Christopher Lloyd’s role of Dr. Emmett Brown in “Back to the Future.”
As with other Black & White mysteries, Michael Robinson’s inspired costumes, the remarkable (trademarked) makeup, clever props and the inventive lighting all contribute to the believability of this pre-full-color piece. Everything is shades of gray.
However, the audience is treated to a big surprise in the second of three acts. Yes, three acts with two 15-minute intermissions.
Without spoiling the surprise, suffice it to say it’s unique to the Harry Hunsacker series, and ever-so-much fun.
Again, if you’re a Harry Hunsacker follower, you remember seeing him present a lady in a long, red dress at the end of each performance. That lady was (and still is!) Kleinmann’s wife since 1992, Barbara Weinberger. She held that role at the close of each show for 27 years.
“When Kurt turned over the role of Harry Hunsacker to Scott Nixon, I knew it was time to find a new Lady in Red. We found the perfect person in Scott’s girlfriend, Stephanie Felton! We want the legacy to live on, and that means letting go of some of our duties,” Weinberger explained.
Weinberger, originally from Long Island, grew up in Wichita, Kansas, and Bowling Green, Ohio. “I used to think my parents purposely chose the flattest places on earth for us to live,” she quipped.
The original Lady in Red earned a BS in computer science with a minor in Math from Bowling Green State University. She moved to Dallas to work for Texas Instruments as a programmer. “Another flatland!” she added.
Weinberger has been a human resource consultant for the past 20 years, focusing primarily in leadership development, communications and change management. She said, “I consider myself lucky because I love my corporate career!”
The couple has done animal rescue work from their M. Street home for about 15 years. They have personally fostered and found homes for about 24 cats and dogs. We asked the pet whisperer to tell us about the menagerie and she said: “At one time we had nine pets, including three dogs and six cats. All but one was a rescue. We realized nine animals was crazy, so we promised each other we would not adopt any more until the last of the nine had passed away.”
According to the rescuer, they kept the promise. “Our last cat, Lola, was a champion cuddler and loved to spend time with us,” she said. “When we lost her rather suddenly in November, we went through intense grief. I don’t think we planned to adopt again for a while, but then Myrna entered our lives. She’s a three-month old black kitty who is very sassy! Sometimes we call her ‘MyrnaOuchStopThat!’”
Weinberger said that her husband makes her laugh every day, and especially when she’s had a stressful one. “Kurt will make sure I end the day with a smile on my face! In the early days we would crack up each other so much that we had to go to separate rooms to settle down.”
Regarding the Living Black and White shows, Weinberger thinks audiences come because they’ve gotten to know the principal characters and they care what happens to them. She added: “The shows are family-friendly because they get their inspiration from old movies. The Living Black and White effect never ceases to amaze people, and people feel good when they leave. They’ve had some belly laughs, plus good has triumphed over evil.”
Pegasus Theatre’s “The Color of Death” will continue at the Eisemann Center, 2351 Performance Dr., Richardson through Jan. 19. For information and ticket sales, call 972-744-4650 or visit [email protected].