Seven Keys to Baldpate

We found 12 stereotypes in this story, and one man who isn’t afraid to confront any of them!

By Andrew Andrews

Jim Cargan (John D. Remington), the crooked mayor of Reuton, threatens novelist William Hallowell Magee (Dylan Parkin) in George M. Cohan’s classic 1913 adaptation of Earl Derr Biggers’ Seven Keys to Baldpate at Falls Theatre in Wappingers Falls. Original photos by Louisa Vilardi Photography.

In the dead of winter, the owner of a mountaintop summer retreat bets his friend, a bestselling novelist, that he can’t write a complete story in just 24 hours. The author, named Magee, takes the bet, hops the next train from New York City, and locks himself into the owner’s Baldpate Inn with the only key.

Magee starts typing away at his story, only to be interrupted by a series of melodramatic stock characters that include a criminal, a corrupt politician and his lackey, a newspaper reporter and her chaperone, a local hermit, and a blackmailer—all of whom also have “only keys” to the inn.

Considered one of the most innovative plays of its time, George M. Cohan’s dramatization wraps the formulaic characters into a self-deprecating plot that pits the novelist against the very personalities he has exploited to become a success.

Tom Campbell, Mark D. Hoffman Jr., Austin Lighting Carrothers, Tessa DeBella, Deborah Coconis, Parkin, Remington, David J. Ringwood, Thomas G. Byrne, Paul Coleman, Craig Patrick Browne, Peggy Ringwood and Camilla Della Vecchia make up the cast of the County Players production, directed by Kit Colbourn.

County Players continues to deliver the greatest-bang-for-the-buck this season by presenting a cast of fourteen characters in gorgeous costumes on a well-designed set for only $20 (or less).

While playwright George M. Cohan might be more famous today for his American standards such as “Give My Regards to Broadway,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “Yankee Doodle,” this mildly-farcical story by the so-called Father of American Musical Comedy was renowned for decades after its release, not only on Broadway, but as seven different motion pictures and countless revivals for stage, television and radio.

Based on the first novel by Earl Derr Biggers (more famous for inventing the character of police detective Charlie Chan), the plot is (perhaps intentionally) predictable: I figured out the ending by the end of the second scene!

The set features an antique telephone switchboard, which—surprisingly and confusingly—every character knows how to operate except the inn’s caretaker, and the delivery otherwise has a bit of a “Scooby-Doo” feel to it.

Although I wasn’t as satisfied by Seven Keys as I was by County Players’ previous productions this season, the acting was pretty much on-par (meaning, neither outstanding nor disappointing).

Perhaps the script itself doesn’t quite stand up to the test of time?

As a result, I wouldn’t suggest that you drive a great distance to attend one of the few remaining performances, but if you’re already in the area, you’ll get your money’s worth.

3

Andrew Andrews attended Seven Keys to Baldpate at Falls Theatre in Wappingers Falls on Friday, February 11, 2022 @ 8:00pm to write this review.