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Classic chaos: PALT to perform Mel Brooks comedy, ‘Get Smart’

Chaos is a perfect way to describe Port Arthur Little Theatre’s upcoming play — “Get Smart.”

“Get Smart” is a 1960s action comedy TV series made by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry — younger generations may remember the 2008 film adaptation with Anne Hathaway and Steve Carell. The show follows two field agents, Maxwell Smart and Agent 99, in their mission to take down the members of the terrorist organization known as KAOS.

Assistant director Mark Pyland said the play is chock full of laughing, fun and pure chaos.

“‘Get Smart’ is a known title,” he said. “It’s a funny show and very family friendly.”

Pyland, a Groves native said this is his first time directing as an assistant and he couldn’t be having more fun.

“It’s been a challenge because it’s my first time to assistant direct anything,” he said. “It’s been a learning process but so far it’s going well and the kids in the show are enjoying it. They like the humor and the old school comedy.”

Matt Hall as Agent Maxwell Smart speaks on a phone disguised as his shoe during rehearsal for the Port Arthur Little Theatre’s production of “Get Smart.” (Brad Robichaux/The News)

The hardest part about acting in a comedy, Pyland said, is trying not to laugh at your own jokes.

“Getting through some of the scenes without laughing is extremely hard for some of the actors,” he said. “We’ve really got a mix with one or two in high school, one kid who is acting with their mother and others who range from late 40s to 7 ½ years old.”

Pyland said he is particularly impressed with his two main actors — Matt Hall and Erin Boudreaux.

“They’ve come a long with it,” he said. “I was a fan of the old TV series and I’ve been really impressed with the two who are playing Maxwell Smart and Agent 99. They both were met with the challenges by taking on two iconic television characters and they are doing a great job with it.”

For Boudreaux, who teaches science at Groves Middle School, her role as Agent 99 is her first return to the stage since acting in high school. This time she’s performing alongside her 7-year-old daughter, Emma.

“It’s great for her because it helps with some nerves and some confidence,” Boudreaux said. “She’s a second grader and she plays a little sister. She’s come to many of the summer camps but this is her first big adult cast. So she’s the youngest of the cast, but she’s also the first to learn her lines (never mind the fact that she has the least lines)!”

Boudreaux’s role has been quite the challenge for her as she tries to bring Agent 99’s sultry demeanor out to a theater audience.

“It’s really hard to be sultry loud,” she said. “I can get in anybody’s ear and be sultry (I mean not anybody — I’m not that kind of girl), but being sultry to the person back there? That’s a challenge! So I had to watch all these videos and practice. I studied some Mae West, which gave me something to go off of to be loud and a little flirty without going over the top.”

Matt Hall as Agent Maxwell Smart speaks on a phone disguised as his shoe during rehearsal for the Port Arthur Little Theatre’s production of “Get Smart.” (Brad Robichaux/The News)

Hall, a lab manager for Lamar University’s chemical engineering department, has been in several PALT productions, and though he finds his other responsibilities time-consuming, he makes time for at least one production a year, and he’s here to make people laugh the way he did when he first saw the show “Get Smart.”

“I try to take what Don Adams’ did and bring it to life so people could see it,” he said. “I’ve added a little bit of me into it but mostly trying to portray to how Mel Brooks would have wanted it to be, and I really want to do it justice so people will be excited to go watch some of the older shows.”

To that end, Hall tries to get into the head of his character, Maxwell Smart.

“I’m just trying to learn how to be Max Smart, because I don’t think he thinks like anybody else; he’s a different type altogether,” Hall said. “I want to understand how he would think and trying to react in the right ways, and I don’t know if I got it 100 percent but hopefully I got enough of it.”

Pyland said they are working with a very minimal set and relying on ambience, lighting and solid acting to sell the show.

“It’s a family friendly show,” he said. “It’s funny, good entertainment and people are always saying there is nothing to do in Southeast Texas, well this is something to do.”

Boudreaux says the cast and crew have been working hard to nail down the parts and the set.

“I think most of the people having an accent, they worked at it, they’ve practiced it,” she said. “We’re kind of playing it up for Mel Brooks because that’s who wrote it. It’s fun as long as someone doesn’t come in thinking it’s too serious. It’s not supposed to be serious!

“I’m super proud of what we’ve done. If I’m going to put my name on it, it’s going to be worth it.”

“Get Smart” will run from Oct. 4-13. Performances times are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.

General admission is $12. Teachers, active military and senior citizens are $10 and students pay $7. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit palt.org.

“Come see the show.” Hall said. “We’ll make sure you laugh, because laughter is the best medicine, unless you’re a diabetic, then stick to insulin first and then you can laugh. But it’ll be fun, something that hopefully you’ll remember.”

— Staff writers Cassandra Jenkins and Brad Robichaux contributed to this story.