Wednesday, July 30, 2014

“Clue” on a Grand Scale! The Schmee's "Attack of the Killer Murder...of Death!"

Ashley Bagwell behind Allie Pratt in Attack of the Killer Murder of ...Death (photo D Hastings)
Attack of the Killer Murder … of Death
Written by Wayne Rawley
Through August 16, 2014

There is a ton to like about Theater Schmeater’s opening show in its spankin’ new space. Wayne Rawley’s Attack of the Killer Murder…of Death! is generally funny, though not hysterical every moment. What it is, though, is a great opportunity to hear spot-on dialogue from uniquely specific characters who break out of stereotype to become their own special beings.

Every single member of this large cast pulls his/her weight in solid, fully realized characters. There is so much going on on this stage that it can be hard to focus on the dialogue fully, and you do want to try to do that, because the dialogue is so smart and well-crafted. Like in real life, though, the characters don’t just stop and wait for others to speak; they are constantly interacting with each other, sometimes in hysterical ways.

The basic plot is a bunch of people on an island making a B-movie (or who knows how far down the alphabet you might go on this one). It’s a horror movie, but there are horrors when filming stops. The power keeps going out, props won’t work and then the leading diva does her death scene for the movie…and doesn’t get up!

So was she poisoned? Scared to death deliberately? Or did her bad heart just fail her? Everyone ends up being a plausible suspect, including the innocent-seeming young assistant who might have killed the diva because the diva had her fired!

The characters are: Kitty Curvey, the young actress who wants the Diva’s career (Alyssa Keene), Martin Van Handsome, the leading man with the square jaw and dim acting ability (Tim Moore), Abby Watson, the sweet young assistant with secrets of her own (Allie Pratt), Desdemona Sunset, the Diva who only stars in B movies or any movies because she knows everyone’s secrets (Lisa Branham), Sydney Candle, the benighted director (J.D. Lloyd), Archie Lowman, the commie writer who refused to name names and has to write B movies now (Lantz Wagner), Beauregard Andrews, the cowboy lighting guy who has one of the biggest secrets revealed (!) (Corey McDaniel), Rosie Bobbins, the costumer who is insulted by the Diva constantly (Alyssa Bostwick), Gus Cassidy, the props guy (Nik Doner), Benjamin Booke, the rent-a-cop who ends up investigating the murder (Ashley Bagwell), and Samantha “Sam” Silver, the moneybags producer who has her reasons for hiring Ms. Sunset in all her pictures (Lisa Viertel).

Every motive is well-conceived and the resolution of each one also makes sense, which is a challenge in a farce. Sometimes it means the humor gets muted, but that’s ok, too, since it elevates the play to have a range of emotions. Sometimes comedies try too hard to just be funny. It does feel a bit long, though, while every twist gets turned. Perhaps a talented director that is not the writer can help the next production find ways to pick up the rhythms just a bit or prune tiny bits that get in the way of resolution.

The set by Michael Mowery is a great example of an old island mansion. Lighting by Dave Hastings goes through movie lighting, natural spooky mansion lighting and spotlit moments. Costumes by Julia Evanovich are character defining, with a particularly ridiculous “monster” costume created by Cole Hornaday and Amy LaZerte that the assistant has to wear for the “movie.” Sound by Al Angel has fun additions to surprise with.

Overall, it’s a great opening for the new space and a very fun evening of smart, funny theater. Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to the funniest murder mystery of the year.

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