Arts and Entertainment

'The Dock Brief'

Might want to watch who you're fraternizing with if you step foot into Whidbey Island Center for the Arts Friday.

Unless you speak fluent Cockney, you might get into a lick of trouble -- but at least you'll have a little bit of fun.

Beginning that night, WICA's front lobby will be transformed into the "Sticky WICA," a dark-timbered British pub that will be the entry to one of the theater's most ambitious fund-raising productions to date.

At WICA Sept. 19-21, Don Wilkins and Brian Lucas will star in "The Dock Brief," a British farce written by John Mortimer, the same gent who penned the famed series "Rumpole of the Bailey."

"The Dock Brief" tells the story of an unsuccessful barrister (British trial lawyer) who finally has his chance at a big case by defending a man who insists on admitting his guilt in murdering his wife. Hilarious proceedings ensue as attorney and client act out possible defense scenarios to appeal the case.

The two-man play is also a fundraiser for Whidbey's community theaters, with separate runs giving to the needs of each. WICA will place proceeds of its Sept. 19-21 run toward their community theater series. A run of the play at Whidbey Playhouse Sept. 26 and 27 will help pay for the playhouse's newly built rehearsal and classroom space.

"This play is going to be great fund-raiser for both theaters," said Deana Duncan, WICA's production director. "People don't really want to travel the length of the island to see a play, but a project like this enables us to cross reference our patrons and encourage more people to see a production."

There's no doubt that Whidbey's newest libation establishment (at least new for this week), the Sticky WICA, is going to be WICA board member Michael Nutt's pub. Nutt built and painted wood-like beams out of Styrofoam insulation in his home workshop to make the WICA lobby look like a real English pub, and ordered cases and cases of English beer for the event.

"This is really going to be a transport into another world," he said.

Nutt came up with the idea for the Sticky WICA after Wilkins came to him in early August requesting suggestions to enhance the "Dock Brief" fund-raising event. Since then the pub has become his baby.

Walking in, pub guests will be able to reach up and touch the faux blackened oak beams and see where horse brass adorns the walls. Theater goers will be able to pick up a game of darts, skittles, or watch the England versus South Africa cricket game on the tellie.

"The British Pub is a revered social institution which has many imitations in various parts of the world but no equals," said Dick Robbins, a Lone Lake resident born in Kent, England. "Each 'local' has it's own faithful and fierce defenders."

On tap at the Sticky WICA will be six different British beers, a couple of good "plunks" and of course, some British pub grub.

As of Monday, Nutt had confirmed 80 British families living on Whidbey will be wandering at the Sticky WICA to help thicken the British atmosphere.

After hanging out in the pub, audiences will sit down to "The Dock Brief." The play's writer, Mortimer, brings his legal insights to the play: He was once himself a barrister.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Wilkins and Lucas traveled around Palo Alto, and the surrounding area, performing the "Don and Brian Show," a two-hour showcase of original sketch comedies with distinctively British humor.

At the time, the two actors were also simultaneously involved with what Wilkins refers to as "legitimate theater."

Wilkins retired from acting 12 years ago, and since moving to Whidbey has taken on a number of directing roles, including being at the helm of WICA's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Lucas, who still lives in California, retired recently but is gladly coming out of retirement to take the stage with his longtime acting partner.

"I first did this role little over twenty years ago, and so it's nice that now I'm finally the right age for the character," Lucas said.

The set, which will look like the underground holding cell of London's largest court -- called "Old Bailey" -- was designed by Mark Williams who previously drafted ideas for the "Picasso at the Lapin Agile," and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

Audiences will have a rare opportunity to see an authentic British comedy, according to WICA production director Deanna Duncan.

"These actors are true Brits who began playing these roles 25 years ago, are still playing them, and know the parts inside and out," she said. "I know we'll see an excellent performance."

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