The American regional theater tradition lives on in the hills of Gaviota, as year in and year out producers Susie and David Couch and directors like Jim Cook serve up their intelligently goofy and highly stage-savvy offerings. The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, which opens there on Thursday, July 23, and runs through Sunday, September 6, is not a musical, but it is the kind of thing that Circle Bar B does best-a mystery that’s also a knockabout farce. Evenings at Circle Bar B (1800 Refugio Rd., Goleta) begin at the long tables outside the Guest Ranch, where a delicious tri-tip barbeque is served, then move to the barn theater, where the plays are performed. For tickets and information, call 967-1962 or visit circlebarbtheatre.com, and check out just a few reasons to see the show below.
1) They’ve Got Four Stooges: Jim Sirianni, Leslie Ann Story, Rodney Baker, and Susie Couch are all members of one musical comedy production team, and they are all up against the same wealthy “angel” backer, Elsa von Grossenknueten, who is played by Kathy Marden. There’s big comic potential in putting these four madcaps on stage together.
2) It Pokes Fun at New York: Set in Chappaqua, the show continues a New York-themed summer at Circle Bar B and offers the troupe the opportunity to lampoon the sacred cows of Broadway and New York society both from within the cozy confines of a delightful little murder mystery.
3) The Maid Dies More Than Once: Jenna Scanlon plays a German maid who won’t stay bumped off. This trick, along with the requisite blackouts, secret passageways, and sliding panels, marks The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 as an authentic example of the great tradition of silly theatrical mysteries.
4) Actors Will Be Playing Actors: Brian Harwell, Robert Langarica, and Jean Hall get to ham it up as actors who come to the house in Chappaqua to rehearse. Anyone who remembers Harwell’s triumphant turn as John Barrymore in Circle Bar B’s production of I Hate Hamlet will know just how funny actors playing actors can be.
5) There’s a Play Within the Play: The ostensible purpose for the team’s visit to Elsa’s Chappaqua mansion is to pitch a new show they have written. This one is a musical called White House Merry-Go-Round, and it sounds bloody awful; one more reason to cheer for these underdogs as they attempt to solve the strange case of the Stage Door Slasher.