Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
"Bullshot Crummond," at Ford's Theater, is a vaudeville sketch masquerading as a full-length whatsis.
Masquerading, indeed, is essential in this spoof that roams from the skies over World War I England into the howels of Netherington Abbey. It takes but five actors to play the 11 roles, the burden falling on American actor Mark Blankfield.
Called on for seven roles. Blankfield employs the techniques of a great if forgotten vaudevillian, Owen McGivney, once billed as "The Protean Artist." McGivney used to play some 26 roles in his one-man "David Copperfield." dashing in one door as one character, zinging out of an adjacent one as someone else. McGivney was so good at it and his audiences so enthralled that he ultimately made his sets translucent so that audiences could watch him make his changes. It was a great act.
Though the original creator, "Sapper" (Herman Cyril McNeile), is given no program credit, the spoof stems from "Sapper's" early 20th century adventure yarns about Bulldog Drummond, a hero of brain, brawn and derring-do. The visual style is of the silent movies, though noises, screams and baby-talk conjure up the period when sound "enhanced" the silents.
"Bullshot Crummond" is a production of Britain's Low Moan Spectacular, created in 1970 as a revue group by Ronald House and Dix White after bowing with another - and mroe clever - spoof, "E1 Grande de Coca Cola," for the Edinburgh Festival. "E1 Grande" did better in New York than "Bullshot," though the latter has been having a phenomenal four-year run in one of San Francisco's casual, miniature theaters, where it probably fits better than it does at Ford's.
Credited with the basic idea, House and White, of the present company, share authorship with Alan Shearman and John Neville-Andrews. Can the latter be the Folger Theater actor of that unusual name soon to appears there in "Whose Life Is It Anyway?"
Need one note that the styles are broad? Shearman, as the heroic Bullshot, musters lowbrow music hall tricks for his invincible attitudes and strikes Donald Woods poses. House, a veteran of his native Chicago's Second City troupe, locates the Von Stroheim accent and stance. Lotte Leenya may have been the inspiration for Brandis Kemp's wicked Lenya and co-founder White makes like Constance Talmadge masquerading as a skyscraper.
Mary Moore's settings fold out of two large, resourceful boxes and her miniatures foreshadow those Robin Wagner created for New York's current musical, "On the Twentieth Century."
A thin do indeed, "Bullshot Crummond" is dedicated, with dogged persistence, to force you into thinking of anything but itself.