Peninsula Players Theatre presents a reading of “The Gentleman Thief” a new romantic comedy-caper by award-winning playwright Mark Brown. “The Gentleman Thief,” formerly known as “Love, the Cracksman,” will be performed April 1 at 7 p.m. at Björklunden, located at 7590 Boynton Lane, Baileys Harbor. “The Gentleman Thief” is part of the Peninsula Players winter program, The Play’s the Thing, and is funded in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin, as well as generous grants from Door County Medical Center and Friends of Door County Libraries. Admission is free, seating is limited.
“I stumbled upon the novel ‘A Gentleman of Leisure’ by P.G. Wodehouse,” Brown said in an interview with Orlando Shakes where “Love, the Cracksman” had its first public reading. “I loved it immediately. From the time I read it until the time I finished the script was about three months. If Cary Grant and Myrna Loy were alive today, I would want them to star in it. I think it’s a fun script with loads of fun characters.”
“The Gentleman Thief” features Jimmy Pitt, a handsome millionaire who makes a bet with a friend that he can break into a house. Jimmy meets Molly, the girl of his dreams, and is mistaken for an internationally known thief. Jimmy then struggles to keep his new friend, Spike, from stealing all of the valuables at a castle in England. And maybe, just maybe, he actually is an internationally renowned thief.
The basic plot for “A Gentleman of Leisure” first appeared in a novella by P.G. Wodehouse in the December 1909 issue of Ainslee’s Magazine. Wodehouse revised and expanded the tale and “The Intrusion of Jimmy” was published in America on May 11, 1910, and the British version was published later that year in November under the title of “A Gentleman of Leisure.”
“A Gentleman of Leisure,” bursting with burglars, detectives, crooked policemen, arranged marriages, broken engagements and hilarious hijinks, was adapted for the stage in 1911 by Wodehouse and John Stapleton and has twice been adapted to the screen, once for silent film in 1915 and again in 1923.
Wodehouse, the creator of characters Bertie Wooster and his manservant, Jeeves, was an English author and one of the most widely read humorists of the 20th century. He was an author, screenwriter and playwright who wrote more than 90 books and 20 film scripts. He settled in the United States after World War II and died in 1975.
“The Gentleman of Leisure” was Wodehouse’s version of E.W. Hornung’s character Arthur J. Raffles, a British cricketer and gentleman thief. Hornung, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s brother-in-law, wrote a series of 26 short stories, two plays, and a novel featuring Raffles between 1898 and 1909.
Mark Brown is a widely produced playwright throughout America and abroad. His plays and musicals include “Around the World in 80 Days,” “China – The Whole Enchilada,” “Tom Jones; Tom Jones the Musical,” “The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge,” “Deep into That Darkness Peering” and “The Little Prince.”
Many of these are adaptations. Brown said he loves digging into a story. “I am challenged with finding where I can stray from the original but still have it fit seamlessly into the story,” he said. With “The Gentleman Thief” he says he has taken some liberties with the original material to create something different, but still has a play that remains true to the book.
Brown said he loves the romantic screwball comedies of the 1930s and feels “The Gentleman Thief” is a story about the perception of truth and the motivation for why people lie. “I’m also trying to capture the feel of the lighthearted comedies from the 1930s that would have starred Cary Grant, William Powell or Myrna Loy.”
Cast in the reading of “The Gentleman Thief” are Peninsula Players veterans Cassandra Bissell (“Miss Holmes,” “Around the world in 80 Days,”); Neil Brookshire (“Miss Holmes,” “The 39 Steps”); Joe Foust (“Almost, Maine,” “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime”); Noah Simon (“Once a Ponzi Time”) and newcomers Adam Wesley Brown, who made his Broadway debut in “Once” and recently toured in “The Woman in Black;” Jack Hickey, Artistic Director Emeritus of the Oak Park Theatre Festival; and Michael Stebbins, the Artistic Director of Door Shakespeare. The cast is under the direction of Peninsula Players Artistic Director Greg Vinkler.
The cast has numerous off-Broadway, national tour, and regional stage credits across the country including performing with Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Cleveland Play House, Company of Fools (Sun Valley, Idaho), freeFall Theatre (St. Petersburg, Florida), Folger Theatre (Washington, D.C.), Goodman Theatre, Great Lakes Theater (Cleveland, Ohio), Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Indiana Repertory, The Public Theater (New York), Skylight Music Theatre (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) Utah Shakespeare, Writers Theatre (Chicago) and many more.
The Play’s the Thing is funded in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin, as well as generous grants from Door County Medical Center and Friends of Door County Libraries.
Peninsula Players Theatre is America’s Oldest Professional Resident Summer Theatre. The Play’s the Thing is part of the Players’ continuing winter outreach programming, presenting professional play readings for the public. To buy tickets or to learn more about the Peninsula Players 2019 season visit www.peninsulaplayers.com.