Each Day a Different Play

July 17, 2003 12:00 am
Evil Oliver Wheedle (Stevie Martin), left, tries to convince Tillie Forsythe (Shannon Russell-Hasel) to run away with him. "Tillie the Teller" will show in four performances: Friday at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. (Baker City Herald/Lisa Britton).
Evil Oliver Wheedle (Stevie Martin), left, tries to convince Tillie Forsythe (Shannon Russell-Hasel) to run away with him. "Tillie the Teller" will show in four performances: Friday at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. (Baker City Herald/Lisa Britton).

By LISA BRITTON

Of the Baker City Herald

Ten-year-old Suzie skips into the bank, grasping an ice cream cone in one hand and 10 cents in the other.

She wants to open an account, she tells blond bank teller Tillie Forsythe, so she'll always have money for ice cream cones.

Suzie's addicted to the sweet confection, you see.

Tillie graciously fills the girl's request and sends Suzie on her way.

So begins the classic melodrama "Tillie the Teller, or The Great Bank Robbery."

Thirteen actors from the Baker High School theater department will present four performances of the play this weekend on Friday at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Tickets are $4 for adults, $3 for seniors, $2 for children and may be purchased at the door at Crossroads Art Center, 1901 Main St. Proceeds will benefit BHS drama and Community Theater at Crossroads.

Each performance will differ from the next as the actors rotate roles to play various characters.

A hero and a villain

Throughout the opening scene, Peter Strongvault stands mute at the entrance to the bank vault — arms crossed — guarding it from little girl and villain alike.

Until he and Tillie are alone, of course.

Enter the shy "aw shucks" hero of this tale.

During Tillie and Strongvault shy visit, we learn of Tillie's financial troubles as she struggles to take care of her ailing Aunt Gertrude.

Only a $500 operation could help, a sum she could never afford on her $14-per- week wage from Oliver Wheedle, the bank president.

"I know you have always thought of me as just a simple bank guard, but that is not entirely true," Strongvault says.

You see, he's spent a few years taking a correspondence course on "How to be a bank executive."

He's sure, once he graduates, that the bank's owners, Twilda and Hilda Marchbanks, will offer him a higher position.

A job that could help Tillie garner a loan, he says.

Her eyes fill with loving adoration.

Enter evil Mr. Wheedle, the villain of our story.

Tillie decides to take matters into her own hands and politely asks Wheedle for a loan.

He denies the simple request.

But there might be another option, he says, pointing out that Tillie's bank books haven't been balancing lately.

"Ah, my plan is working perfectly," Wheedle whispers to the audience. "Each day I remove a small sum of cash, which I slip into a small black bag in my desk. Then I changed a few figures to cover the shortage."

He's also tampered with Tillie's personal accounts to make it look like she was the thief.

Wheedle entraps the innocent bank teller, offering her a choice she simply can't refuse.

He'll help pay for her aunt's operation.

The stipulation? She has to run away with him.

Just when Tillie is about to give in to Wheedle's evil plan, in stumble the bumbling bank robbers, Frank and James Jessie.

"Stick 'em up!" James yells.

Just as all hope seems lost to the dynamite-wielding bandits, in runs Strongvault who defeats the robbers and carts them off to jail.

But the true villain remains.

Wheedle returns to his task at hand, prodding Tillie to run away with him.

"Come, think of the consequences," he says.

"I have," Tillie says. "But I'm sure dear, sweet Aunt Gertrude and good, strong Peter Strongvault will not forsake me, despite this vile deed you are attempting to perpetrate."

This is not the answer Wheedle wants to hear.

He forces Tillie into the bank vault — along with bank owners Twilda and Hilda who happen upon the scene — and lights the dynamite left by the Jessie brothers.

Once again our hero Strongvault rushes to the rescue in the nick of time.

"Shucks," Strongvault says, looking down at his feet, "I just did my duty as I saw it."