Reno News & Review
April 22, 2004
"The Lethal West: Dillweed Nevada"
By Miranda Jesch
"Meet me at the church at midnight, and we'll discuss the
church newsletter. Just you and me--by candlelight," said the
Reverend Hornus Manhandler (Paul Dancer) in a sly Irish accent. He
raised his eyebrows and gave me a subtle wink of the eye. "Don't
tell Brother Raymond, though," he added. The Reverend's wife, Sadie
(director and Funtime Theater founder Kathy Easly), was too busy
talking to other "suspects" to notice her husband's wandering,
Raymond is my boyfriend. He accompanied me to Funtime's murder
mystery dinner presentation of Dillweed Nevada. When I told
Raymond that the Reverend was trying to put the moves on me, he
joked that he would straighten him out. I told Ray not to be too
worried because I had asked the Reverend what the Seventh
Commandment was (a clue encouraged me to do so), and he staunchly
said, "Thou shalt not commit adultery."
"That doesn't mean he believes in it," Raymond suggested.
As the performers rely almost entirely on interaction with the
audience, Ray and I spent a lot of time chatting up the Dillweed
The Reverend had initially introduced himself to us minutes
after arriving at BJ's Bar-B-Q (745 N. McCarran Blvd., Sparks), the
scene of the crime and dinner, and an appropriately rustic locale
for the 1877 temporal setting of the play. The Reverend was a
finger-on-the-pulse-of-everything kind of guy. He tried to get me
and Raymond to invest in some newfangled idea called a ballpoint
pen and some zany sport called baseball, which, as Deputy
McMarshall (Tumbleweed Tex) later pointed out, makes no sense:
"When you hit the ball, that should be called a strike."
It was the audience's job to uncover as much about the people of
Dillweed as possible prior to the two murders that would be taking
place. Of course, it was the most despicable characters who ended
up being knocked off--you'll have to wait and see if the Reverend
was one of them--and their murderers were two of the people I least
As the evening progressed, more secrets were revealed. A clue
suggested I ask Desolay Wanton (Maire Burgess) what the price of a
loaf of bread is in New York. Her response, "For me, three to six
months," advanced into a discussion about who her prison
acquaintances were. Apparently, the Reverend spent some time
working at Desolay's coop. "He helped wayward girls find their
way," Desolay said.
One of the perks of the evening was our dining companions.
Raymond and I were seated with a couple, Becky and Tony, who moved
from San Diego about a year ago. Tony made himself a very active
participant in the evening's festivities. His quips were as
entertaining as any of the performers, which is a compliment for
When Tony told the Reverend he thought he could help him raise
some money, the Reverend earned a round of laughs from our table by
"breaking time" and saying, "Good, give me your e-mail."
For original local theater--the performers at Funtime penned the
characters and script themselves--Dillweed Nevada was
impressively clever and funny. Character names alone were blatantly
droll (Desolay's banker husband was Avaricious, Avery for short)
and sexually suggestive. Ray and my favorites were the Please
women: town doctor and whorehouse proprietor, Gladys Please (Chris
Kilian), and her daughters, who did an awesome job of bringing food
and drinks to the packed restaurant, Anyanees and Bloise Please.
Anything we asked Bloise for, she took care of.
Reno News & Review
September 8, 2005
Live from the cemetery
"Voices of the Past"
It's sunset, the time of day when visitors to the
Virginia City Cemetery typically start clearing out for the night.
But one evening last week, the fading sunlight fell on about a
dozen people dressed in a mixture of turn-of-the-century and modern
clothes. It was the dress rehearsal for Voices of the Past,
a ghostly walking tour performed by Funtime Theater to raise funds
for the cemetery's restoration.
Candace Wheeler, who works for the Comstock Cemetery Foundation,
wrote the script, and the Funtime Theater actors make it a reality.
Playing the "spirits" of prominent Virginia City residents buried
in the cemetery, they talk about various aspects of everyday life
in a mining town, from firefighting to medical care to the
challenges women faced.
"You meet the caretaker and the widow at the gate, and they tell
you about the cemetery and a little bit about life in Virginia
City," explains Kathy Easly, who plays the Widow of the Silver
Terrace. "Then you go through the cemetery and encounter the other
actors." The widow and Thomas Wilson (played by Paul Dancer) are
the tour guides. They lead guests to graves where actors wait,
frozen, for their cues to come back to life to tell their stories.
Voices of the Past is a walking tour--emphasis on
walking. The cemetery's uneven, sandy slopes could be difficult for
some to navigate, and the tour moves along at a brisk pace.
Fortunately, the actual tour takes place during the day; it might
be a little less spooky than a nighttime visit. Still, it's a good
idea to bring comfortable walking shoes--and a camera to capture
the scenic views of Virginia City and the cemetery's old
Dancer, breaking character for a moment, says the best part of
being in the production is "playing the person I'm standing on top
of." The actors have permission to stand, sit and walk around their
characters' graves, and the effect can be convincing.
"It feels like I'm representing them and helping preserve their
memories," says Dancer, who has been involved with the tour since
its beginning. He recalls several occasions where a cemetery gate
seemed to open itself. Dancer believes that this was a sign from
the real Wilson, giving his seal of approval to the performance.
The production, now in its third year, keeps things fresh by
rotating the characters.
"We might take one person out and put one person in each
season," Easly estimates. But she's not telling who the mystery
guest is this year. The curious, she says, will have to come see
The Comstock Cemetery Foundation, established in 2000 as a
non-profit organization, collects donations to help protect and
restore cemetery sites and old photographs of the cemeteries. It
also aids in the return of items that have been removed from
cemeteries. Judging from the yellow caution tape and run-down
condition of some of the graves, the foundation has its work cut
out; there's still plenty of restoration that needs to be done.
By the time the tour ends, twilight has fallen on the cemetery,
and the actors head back to change into their 21st-century clothes.
They'll be back this weekend to revive the past. A fresh and
unconventional approach to local history, Voices From the
Past is educational entertainment for a good cause.