Latest Stone’s Throw production features madcap diplomacy | Local News

CARTHAGE, Mo. — David Kloppenborg wasn’t expecting the comedy he chose to direct to be so topical. He selected “Don’t Drink the Water” before Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his country’s armed forces to invade Ukraine.

“There is a relevance, though,” Kloppenborg said. “There is a tension between democracies and authoritarian regimes. … The secret police in this play act how authoritarian governments tend to act.”

Stone’s Throw Dinner Theater is prepared to start its run of the play Friday. It will run for the next two weekends.

“Don’t Drink the Water” is the story of a bombastic American tourist and a hapless employee at the US Embassy in a country behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. As Walter Hollander and his family from him tour the country, he insists on taking some pictures of missiles and more in a high-security area, they escape to the embassy as they run for their lives from soldiers.

Axel Magee, a not-so-proficient diplomat eager to prove himself and his worth, ends up attempting to handle the Hollander’s escape into the embassy. Things quickly spiral out of his control, however, as Magee and the Hollanders attempt to escape the embassy.

Written by Woody Allen, “Don’t Drink the Water” was the first play of his to be professionally produced and presented on Broadway. It made its debut in 1966 and has been adapted twice into movies — in 1969 starring Jackie Gleason as Hollander and in 1994 featuring Michael J. Fox as Magee.

Kloppenborg chose this play based on his history—he and his wife, Melanie, played the roles of Walter and Marion Hollander about 11 years ago in a Mount Vernon Community Theater production.

“When I threw my hat in the ring for directing shows, I went back and reread the play,” Kloppenborg said. “I had forgotten how funny it was. There are so many laugh-out-loud moments. And while it doesn’t have any adult situations, there is plenty of adult humor.”

His wife is cast in the same role in this production, acting alongside Richard Hugh Roberts as Walter Hollander. Kloppenborg said discovering Roberts’ take on the role he once played has been exciting.

“I just couldn’t picture anyone doing the role better than I could,” Kloppenborg said of the Ralph Kramden-like Walter Hollander. “It fit my personality very well, but we’re very lucky to have Roberts. He is doing an amazing job, and he is bringing things to the role I never thought of.”

The rest of the cast is just as excited to present their work — Kloppenborg said they are ready for audiences. Elijah Paden is playing Axel Magee; Other cast members include Gloria Wilson, David Everett, Genna Reid, Zach Bradley, Robert Myers, Misty Hammer, Diann Mazurek, Emily Rose, Sid Davis, Katy Cox and Amanda Powell.

Kloppenborg has adjusted the time period of this production to reflect the tensions of the ’80s between the US and the Soviet Union. Despite the 40-year gap, the play offers some surprising relevance in between its madcap comedy antics.

“There is actually some social commentary in there, including how we also cozy up to bad people as long as they serve our national interests,” Kloppenborg said.

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