Ryan Chartrand

A poetic cockroach and his friends will make their appearance at Linnaea’s Cafe Sunday night, Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. Gale McNeeley, a Santa Maria resident, presents a one-man show as “Archy, the Poetic Cockroach,” and “Mehitabel, the Toujours Gai Alley Cat” and other characters created by Don Marquis.

The name Marquis is recognizable to people over 60, but younger generations are not familiar with his work.

“My job is to keep Archy and Mehitabel alive; they will die if not,” McNeeley said.

Archy and Mehitabel is not the usual cartoon mix. Instead, Marquis sketched the characters from two common animals found in New York City. Archy and his friends first appeared in the New York Evening Sun in 1916 and traveled to other publications as well to make a 500- sketch career.

Marquis had the characters talk about current events, such as the war at the time, relationships and even transmigration. Ever since grade school, McNeeley said he was interested in performing.

He even appeared in a couple Broadway shows and has performed for nearly 48 years.

McNeeley is involved in local theater and teaches introduction to stage movement at Cuesta Community College and teaches at other surrounding area schools.

For McNeeley’s hour and a half show, he takes poems written by Marquis and acts them out, and even sings a few numbers, “Song of the Moth” and “The Old Actor Cat.” McNeeley becomes the characters.

McNeeley first became acquainted with the duo when he acted in the musical and in 1987 began doing his own act.

Betty Faas accompanies McNeeley for two songs for the act on the piano. Faas has worked with McNeeley for a year and said the show is sophisticated, wonderful and people seem to respond to it nicely.

“You’ve never seen anything quite like it; he can become all these characters. It’s something else,” Faas stated.

According to McNeeley, Marquis experienced a sad life, but somehow wrote comedy; his message was no matter what hits someone in life, to always find the good life has to offer.

Marquis created Archy, the wannabe writer stuck in a cockroach’s body, who every time he dies wants to come back as a human so he can be an accomplished writer. Ironically, no matter how many times he dies, Archy always goes back to being a cockroach, what he was meant to be in life.

Then there’s Mehitabel, the alley cat who is always happy, even when suffering with a broken leg. She is well-known for her line, “toujours gai, toujours gai, my dear Archy,” meaning always happy, always be happy Archy.

McNeeley is determined to keep Marquis’ work alive and show people how the material remains relevant to a person’s life today.

“My goal is to not let them die, and if they do die, they’ll just turn into a body of a cockroach,” joked McNeeley.

This November McNeeley will travel to Greensberg, Pennsylvania to perform his show with Michael Sims, who featured McNeeley in the preface of his new book, “The Annotated Archy and Mehitabel” and head to his old alma mater, John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio to perform.

McNeeley is currently working to get his show on national radio for all audiences to become familiar with Archy and Mehitabel.

Linnaea’s is located at 1110 Garden St.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *