People of a certain age will remember the seemingly inimitable Don Adams as America’s own version of Inspector Clouseau—the bumbling but inexplicably successful Maxwell Smart, also known as Agent 86. With Agent 99, who is never named for some reason, by his side, Smart, a secret agent for the even more secret government agency CONTROL, fights the evil forces of KAOS, led by the ironically named Mr. Big. The show had lots of silly gags that became part of our culture, such as Max’s shoe phone and his well-known line, “Sorry about that, chief.”
People of a much younger age may or may not remember the regrettable attempt by Steve Carell to revive the classic send-up of all things Cold War spy drama. Carell made no attempt to imitate Adams’ odd nasal twang that was somehow both grating to the ear and yet also endearing. In this later iteration, Smart is more of a fish out of water in that he is a clerical worker who gets thrust into field work to disastrous result. It was a wise move to try to recreate the character in his own image, but the movie just wasn’t well-written and wasn’t successful despite having a pretty stellar cast, including Ann Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin, Bill Murray, and Terry Crews.
To a lesser extent, the Mid-Ohio Valley Players’ rendition of Smart, Agent 99, Chief, and Mister Big suffers from the same malady. While Doug Reed, a man with a face of rubber and seemingly a thousand voices, uncannily channels the Maxwell Smart of old, the material doesn’t quite hold up to the standard of the brilliant original. But to be fair, who can compete with the originators of the show, Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, two of the great giants in comedy writing? Mr. Reed indeed does an amazing job, however, of wringing every possible laugh from the script. His timing is impeccable, as are his voice and expressions. In fact, if folks who watched the classic series were to close their eyes, they might easily mistake him for the original.
Sarah Rose Drake does an admirable job of portraying Agent 99. She strikes the appropriate balance between competent agent and friend and romantic partner for Max. Tim Tuten’s Agent 44 is quite entertainingly weird, while Charles Wilcox’s Chief is appropriately put-upon. Theatre-goers are sure to chuckle along as they get caught up in the ridiculous antics of Maxwell Smart.
So, if you’re a fan of the silly sophomoric humor of the classic TV show starring Don Adams and the lovely Barbara Feldman as 99, then head down to the Mid-Ohio Valley Players this weekend to enjoy the superior skills of the star and cast of Get Smart. The show, directed by Rachel Polen, opens Friday, April 27. The curtain goes up at 8:00pm. Subsequent evening performances will take place on April 28, May 4, 5, 11, and 12. There will be one matinee performance on Sunday, May 6 at 3pm. Tickets are available online at midohiovalleyplayers.org. You may also purchase tickets at the box office.