Plot thickens in staging a ‘Murder’ at St. James
By ANNETTE ESTERHELD Staff Writer
When playwright Drew Pelman snags theater star Hazel Laverne for the summer theatre opening of his new play, he’s assured of a hit, or is he? It’s quickly clear in OutOftheBlackBox Theatre Co.’s production of James Reach’s “Murder Takes the Stage” that most in the cast have reason to dislike Hazel intensely and there’s very little about Hazel to like.
Even the audience finds her character hard to take and when Hazel is shot and killed for real on stage during a scene where her character is supposedly shot with blanks from a gun, the plot thickens as the other actors tell their tales of jealousy and blackmail in relationship to Hazel. It’s up to the local sheriff and Mitzi, the college student who loves true crime, to set a trap for the murderer.
The play is set in the late 1950s, but director Jo Rake said that the cast “is representative of today’s theatre community and adds a modern touch to the play.” There are 13 actors in the play and each has to establish his or her character before Hazel is killed. The cast, a blend of seasoned and new performers, does a good job of that. Some that are especially noteworthy include Sandra Cox True, who plays Miss Liz, owner of the theatre; Steve Kramer as Hazel’s promoter Larry Strickland; Jo Klein-Duke as Sara Farnham, an actress whose career has seen better days; Penny Martin as Jane Bond, who runs the summer theater; and Michael Parker, as the wily, down-home-style Sheriff Wiley.
Mitzi is played by Angela Abadir, 15, a Bowie High School student. Abadir shows us an overzealous Nancy Drew character who won’t give up until she solves the mystery.
Kudos to the entire cast for making their characters believable and for keeping the audience’s attention as first one then another is considered for the murder of Hazel – and all of this on a bare stage with no props or sets, only folding chairs and one small table where the director sat. The taped interlude music prepared by Rake and artistic director Betsy Delaney adds to the atmosphere as the story builds to its conclusion and the murderer is identified.
“Murder Takes the Stage” is the third production of the relatively new theatre company OutOftheBlackBox and its first presentation in Bowie. The company seeks to offer an environment where performers and production staff can experiment with all different aspects of production from acting to technical support to administration. For information, visit www.OutOftheBlackBox.org.
Published 05/03/07, Copyright © 2007 The Bowie Blade
Way to go, cast and crew (and director)!!!
Shows remaining: Friday/Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 3pm through May 12. Tickets: 301-922-1865 or tickets at o2b2 dot oh-arr-gee!