The bad guys are grizzled and gritty, the heroines bright and spirited.
Both manage to have a lot of fun as the Gold Hill Theater Troupe presents Way Off Broadway Theater, Comstock-style.
The Troupe had only a few members when the curtain dropped for the first time at the Gold Hill Hotel in Gold Hill last October, a dream owner Bill Fain had been nurturing for some time.
"I've owned the hotel for 15 years and always thought theater in the great room would be fun," he said "I looked around for plays, but couldn't find any that fit so I wrote two. Actually, I wrote the plays out of laziness. I didn't want to do the research."
He said the historic performances are a great publicity draw, and they're a good time.
"People love history. It offers them a different perspective," he said.
The group now boasts about 30 actors, directors and writers. Veteran actor-director Michael Schon said this group, made up primarily of amateurs, has a fresh approach to the theater.
"I love working with new people who aren't locked into their roles. Most haven't acted before and they're up for anything," he said. "But I do have to worry about backups. Once the leading lady couldn't make it because of a storm and we had to cancel the performance."
The artists hail from Dayton, Silver Springs and Virginia City. Many also work at the hotel.
Built around 1859, the Gold Hill Hotel was the first of its kind in this area and the great room is not large by today's standards. As the guests congregate, their voices mingle and the feeling is intimate and comfortable, much like grandma's living room .
Schon helps guests to their seats among a melange of chairs set around the small stage. As the lights dim, Fain steps into the light, offering something by way of introduction in an easy, Texas drawl.
The spirited heroine for the evening, Gladys McGraw, is an ex-prostitute engaged to a prosperous San Franciscan. After being accosted, she accidentally kills the town drunk with her hatpin and is sentenced to hang.
A recent transport from Las Vegas community theater, veteran actress Michelle Reynolds gives the character spirit, depth and energy.
"I love the theater. This is such a great escape. It's fun and entertaining and everyone here is so close," she said. "There are a variety of actors, from beginning to advanced and everyone brings something unique to the troupe."
Fain's first plays, "The Yellow Jacket Fire" and "Sue Ellen's Parlour House," completed their runs in March and rehearsals are starting for two new plays. "Julia" is a play loosely based on the murder in 1867 of the Comstock's first lady of the evening, Julia Bulette, and "The Golden Sunset" is a play set in an 1890s hurdy gurdy house in Virginia City.
Guests are invited to take advantage of the "Way Off Broadway Theater and Dinner Special," which costs $15. In addition to the play, patrons have their choice of chicken picatta, New York steak or salmon filet for $15 per person. The plays are performed every Wednesday and Thursday and performances alone cost $5 per person. For times, dates, or more information, call the Gold Hill Hotel at 847-0111.
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