Naples Daily News - August 18, 2001

'Dick Piston' sends up Bogart, whodunits and dames — sweetheart

Saturday, August 18, 2001


Feeling in a silly mood?

Then you'll enjoy the Theatre Conspiracy's world premiere of the campy "The Further Adventures of Dick Piston, Hotel Detective: Prague-nosis" as much as I did.

If the title seems exaggerated, wait until you see the show.

In bringing yet another new work to the stage, Theatre Conspiracy Artistic Director Bill Taylor lives up to the group's reputation for bringing well-executed, cutting-edge theater to Southwest Florida with this sophisticated spoof on the stereotypical Humphrey Bogart-type murder-mystery movie of black-and-white days gone by.

Taylor plays Dick Piston, a study in Bogey parody. He wears a trench coat, his hat cock-eyed, his left elbow slightly bent with his hand positioned as if he is holding a cigar. He keeps his lips tight and speaks in a strained voice throughout the show, which is packed with one gag after another.

Not nearly as slick as Bogey himself, Piston wouldn't know what to do with either of the two bosomy women who keep rubbing their bodies against his — that is, if he noticed them to begin with.

Absurdity reigns as Piston goes about the task of figuring out who stole jewels from whom, among other things, in a hotel in Prague, Czechoslovakia. He first encounters the ditzy Pleasure Hello, aptly played by Lisa Marie, who routinely rips open her bright red blouse to reveal breasts covered in a black lace bodice. Her facial expressions and gestures lend themselves well to physical comedy.

Pleasure, a melodramatic Czechoslovakian movie star, first comes to Piston's hotel office and claims to have been raped. Then she changes her story and says she was really robbed.

Robbed of what?

Robbed of her virginity, of course. Upon further investigation, it turns out her "virginity" is actually her missing necklace.

You get the idea.

As the plot — as if plot really matters — unfolds, Piston goes on to meet an assortment of odd characters, a hypnotist known as Zing the Amazing, a voluptuous blond Russian jewel thief named Misha Novakova and a strange man with no pants named Havel Presley.

Under the expert direction of David Utz, who also designed the play's set and lighting, each of the actors turn in strong performances. The set is designed to keep the action moving, and Utz's lighting job is a masterpiece unto itself.

The smart, contemporary script was penned by California playwright Jeff Goode, who also wrote "The Eight Reindeer Monologues," the biting Christmas show offered up by the Theatre Conspiracy last December.

Rob Ervin is so overdone as Zing, you can't help but laugh. Beth Ellege, with her sleek blond hair, black dress and sparkling jewels, is the epitome of femme fatale. Clement Valentine is perfectly strange as the man with no pants.

In the end, it's hard to tell exactly who might be guilty of what, but there's no doubt everyone had a good time doing whatever it was they did.

E-mail Beth Francis at

If You Go

"The Further Adventures of Dick Piston, Hotel Detective; Prague-nosis" Theatre Conspiracy

Where: Foulds Theatre at the Lee County Alliance for the Arts, 10091 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 26

Cost: $14 adults; $7 students

Information: (941) 936-3239