THEATER

‘The Murder Room' opens at Gainesville Community Playhouse


“The Murder Room” features, from left, Kristin Mercer as Mavis, Robert Lencki as Barry, Esteban Alvarez III as Inspector Crandal and Danielle Pagliari as Susan at the Gainesville Community Playhouse beginning Friday.

Matt Walsh/Correspondent
Published: Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 12:41 p.m.

It's the first dress rehearsal of “The Murder Room,” and one cast member admits she's been cheating.

Facts

‘The Murder Room'

What: Comedic satire of British murder mysteries staged by the Gainesville Community Playhouse
When: Previews at 8 tonight, opens Friday and runs 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 6
Where: Vam York Theater, 4039 NW 16th Blvd.
Tickets: $16, $8 for students with ID beginning 30 minutes before showtime if available; all seats $5 for tonight's preview
Info: 376-4949 or www.gcoplayhouse.org

In a physically and technically difficult black-out scene, where the actors appear in a different funny pose each time the lights come back on, they had been practicing by closing their eyes as they move around the stage.

“I'm clumsy just walking,” said Danielle Pagliari, who peeked her eyes open at points while explaining.



This is just one of the scenes in Jack Sharkey's larger-than-life, farcical spoof of murder, “The Murder Room,” which opens at the Gainesville Community Playhouse on Friday. A preview performance is planned at 8 tonight.

Director Pat Thomson said the play has all of the stereotypical characters of such murder-mystery productions, such as the gold-digger wife, the all-too-familiar housemaid and the brainless daughter.

“It puts them all together and creates mayhem,” Thomson said.

Set in the 1930s, the story opens with Mavis Hollister, played by Kristin Mercer, having just killed her wealthy husband, Edgar, who is played by Doug Diekow. Complications sky-rocket as Edgar's dim-witted daughter, Susan, played by Pagliari, and her handsome fiance, Barry, played by Robert Lencki, show up and try to solve the mystery. The gossip-loving housemaid, Lottie, played by Jan Cohen, does not help matters.

Thomson said it is less about who did it and more about what happened to the body. Everyone is trying to solve a different mystery and takes it to the most extreme extent possible.

“A good farce is something the actors have the best time in,” Thomson said. “It's the English mysteries from the by-gone days.

“Comedy is universal,” Thomson said. “It has to be to work.”

Thomson has directed productions at the GCP before, and this is her second time directing this play. She said she took more risks this time and was fortunate to get a cast that's most experienced and a little more wild.

“They have to get their ‘wacky' on a little more,” Thomson said.

They also have to learn how to walk in the dark and use trap doors.

Mercer counts her steps in rehearsal for the black-out scene. She said first they practiced it looking up and then with their eyes closed.

Mercer plays Mavis, the gold-digging wife who kills her husband.

“She is fabulously evil,” Mercer said.

She said she enjoys working with a small cast. Five of the six people in the cast have worked together before.

A challenge all of the actors faced for this performance is the level of expression they are required to give. Because the show is so over-the-top, Mercer said, she feels like a bad actor.

Pagliari said she has been in theater since she was 6 years old, and this is the hardest thing she's ever had to do.

Pagliari plays Susan, Mavis' stepdaughter.

“She is the stupidest person I've had the pleasure of even listening to,” Pagliari said.

Performances will run through Feb. 6, with curtain times at 8 p.m. Wednesdays thru Saturdays, and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $16, $8 for students. All tickets for tonight's preview performance are $5. For more information see www.gcplayhouse.org.

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