By Frederick Heide
In this show, produced in 2001’s fall season, a cast of four depicts a snapshot of life on a Door County farm. In between several original and traditional songs, the characters tell jokes, ponder life’s deeper questions, and pay tribute to a dear friend who has passed away.
Green Bay Press-Gazette
WARREN GERDS - September 2001
‘Dumkee’s Farm’ is just plain down-home fun
FISH CREEK – “Bob Dumkee’s Farm” has the markings of an American Folklore Theatre outdoor show written all over it—except it’s an indoor fall production.
The musical is firmly rooted in the region: Most of the songs, jokes and stories are, as some people say, “from home.”
In the jokes, the characters are Belgian, Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian. If you like Ole and Lena jokes, there’s a bunch here.
The show is corny, clever, light, tender, bizarre, musical, comical, simple, knowing and earthy. In other words, it’s one of those catch-all, all-ages shows that have been pleasing audiences for 10 summers at Peninsula State Park.
In 75 minutes, a cast of four gives a playful snapshot of life on a fanciful Door County farm. There’s a thread of a story—about Bob and his wife, Dottie, struggling to make do—but entertainment is the aim.
That comes on multiple levels, ranging from silly to sublime.
On one end, there are songs for kids, such as “Polly Wolly Doodle.” And jokes: “What lies at the bottom of the bay and twitches?” “A nervous wreck.”
On the other end, the characters sing of a dear dead friend or slip in slightly suggestive lines.
In between are beautiful harmonies and nifty instrumentalizing—and a gorgeous rendition of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” to close the show.
The thickheaded Bob Dumkee is played by Frederick “Doc” Heide, who created the show. Heide also is co-founder of American Folklore Theatre and has created many shows for the theater. His presence dates to the original show group at Peninsula State Park, the Heritage Ensemble, which started 30 years ago.
Heide and Lee Becker teamed on the story. Becker plays the none-too-swift Wilbur Schlump, who’s well-stuffed (literally) and spins out jokes and songs and has a cosmic touch with machines (which talk to him).
Amy Chaffee is Dottie, the glue of the family. Chaffee is wonderful—a perfect match in song and acting for anything she’s called on. Her radiance gives the show a special dimension.
Michael Christman adds instrumental flourishes as H. (for Humpty) Dumkee, “a good egg.” (Groan).
Direction is by Sheila Sabrey-Saperstein, formerly of the Northwestern University faculty.
“Bob Dumkee’s Farm” is the first show that American Folklore Theatre has put on in Gibraltar Town Hall with an honest-to-goodness set. By Stewart Dawson, it’s a farm porch with a wooden barrel and box, a rocking chair, a washboard and tub and an overall worn wood look.
Altogether, the show is quite down-home. It’s another original show, brimming with local character and color, by a unique regional theater company.