Ben Hecht is in a pickle. He’s just written a script for the movie “Scarface,” inspired by real-life gangster Al Capone. It’s guaranteed to be a hit, if Capone’s hit-men don’t get him first.
The jokes fly fast and thick as Hecht tries to duck gangsters on one hand and the Hollywood censors on the other in the hilarious new comedy “A Visit From Scarface,” playing through Nov. 16 at Barter Stage II in Abingdon, Va.
Tickets are $30, $34 and $36.
Mother/son playwriting duo V. Cate and Duke Ernsberger are known for taking a fascinating bit of history and expanding it into a witty and knee-slapping good time. Their latest script began when Cate stumbled across an obscure article in an old film book — the true story of how Hecht was writing the screenplay for “Scarface” when he received a visit from two very scary mobsters who worked for Al Capone. The men came to put a little scare into Hecht just in case the movie said any bad things about their boss.
Cate and Ernsberger were more than excited to pen another adventure for Hecht, whom they first wrote about in “Don’t Cry For Me, Margaret Mitchell,” a sell-out hit for Barter. Other successful Cate/Ernsberger plays include “Dracula Bites” and “Elvis Has Left the Building.”
The show’s director Katy Brown, who also directed “Don’t Cry For Me, Margaret Mitchell” five years ago, said she’s excited to meet Hecht again, this time at a different stage in his life.
“This time, his script is missing, the censors are coming right into his hotel room, and there are mobsters threatening to take him for a little ride if he writes things they don’t like,” Brown said. “Lucky for him, he’s got rapid-fire wit and a crazy sense of humor to help him out of any situation.
“Duke Ernsberger and Virginia Cate, the authors of this play and ‘Margaret Mitchell’ as well, put Ben Hecht into something like his own movies time and time again. He spent his career creating exciting worlds for others to escape into, and now he’s allowed to live in a world just like that. Crazy characters bang in and out of his hotel suite, the stakes are incredibly high, and he always has a punch line to bring down the house. He talks, walks and lives like the characters he created in films like ‘His Girl Friday,’ ‘Some Like It Hot’ and even ‘Scarface.’ I think Duke and Virginia have given Ben an incredible gift — one he would have loved in life.”
Barter Resident Actor Rick McVey stars as Hecht. Newcomer Bob Payne plays Myron Selznick, Holly Williams is a Hollywood starlet, Justin Tyler Lewis and Andrew Slane play the mobsters, and Mary Lucy Bivins is Miss Spunk, the movie censor. Rounding out the cast are Jim France and Terrance Jackson.
For tickets or more information, call (276) 628-3991 or visit www.bartertheatre.com.