Kill them with laughter

Oakwood High School’s fall play, “the Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” brings mystery and comedy together

Sophia Shannon, Writer

The theater is dark and the house has quieted. As lights rise on stage, all in the room observe in anxious anticipation the start to this year’s fall play: “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940”. A dark figure creeps through a door on stage right, starting the show with a sudden murder and setting a precedent for the suspicious activities that are explored throughout the rest of the show. Following the follies of a creative team and performers trying to uncover a killer on the loose, ten actors and a large crew have worked hard on the production for two months, and it is coming together as opening night draws near.

Despite the seemingly serious themes in the play however, the production revolved around the art of comedy, both situational and verbal, unwittingly and consciously.

“The first two shows I directed six years ago were murder mysteries and it’s one of my favorite genres,” Jenna Hill, the director of the play, said. “I knew I wanted to do a comedy though, so this fit perfectly.”

The fast-paced, energetic nature of the show ensured that there is never a dull moment on stage.

“There’s a couple of times in the show we’re all just bouncing off each other, and I just love that so much,” actress Phoebe Martin (11), who plays eccentric lyricist Bernice Roth, said. “It really brings up energy and it’s way more fun than any other types of lines.”

Martin’s character, though not particularly chatty, is one that provided comic relief when the others start to get serious.

“Bernice isn’t a character that has a lot of lines, but she is on stage a lot,” Martin said. “She’s very focused in what she’s doing. Sometimes that focus is a little misplaced.”

Bernice’s misplaced attention often resulted in amusing interjections from the character, who is more concerned with writing a masterpiece than catching a killer.

Martin’s character isn’t the only comic in the show however. Eddie McCuen, played by senior Nick Shafer, is a struggling comedian looking for a big break.

“My character is a bad comedian who is constantly trying to impress the people around him and make them laugh,” Shafer said. “Sometimes he succeeds, sometimes he fails.”

Other characters include Ken De La Maize, a director played by Kevin Dayspring (10), Helsa Wenzel, a maid played by Sydney Hardern (11), Patrick O’Reilley, an actor played by Eric Powers (11), and Nikki Crandall, an actress played by Beth DeLon (11).

The cast of talented actors toiled over the production for two months, typically with two hour rehearsals. During the week preceding the performances, practice can stretch to as long as 9 hours on the weekend and 5 hours after school.

“At the start of the process we’ll have specific page numbers that we need to block,” Shafer said. “We already know our lines, or we’re reading out of scripts, but we’ll learn what we need to do on stage, and then at the end of rehearsal we’ll usually review what we did either at the last rehearsal or a whole act or a few scenes.”

The actors aren’t the only ones who worked hard though. In the dark backstage, a huge crew is in charge of many unconventional cues like opening secret passages with moving bookcases. These secret passages have a vital role to play in the mystery and confusion brought upon the characters, and the crew must time their openings and closings perfectly with onstage cues, which they cannot see.

Some members of the crew, such as Maddy Myers (11), the rehearsal manager, and Amelia Merithew (10), the stage manager, had other responsibilities as well.

“I’m assigning the crew members with which jobs they do, generally directing the crew, and making sure that everything runs smoothly,” Merithew said. “I like coming in a little later because it means I get to see the show in the last stages.”

As rehearsal manager, Myers attended all rehearsals and shows, noting blocking and providing lines for the actors.

“I get to observe everything so I know what’s happening,” Myers said. “You get to see the other side of the process, because I’ve always been in the shows, and being on crew is a different perspective.”

The cast and crew performed the show on Thursday, Nov. 8 and ended the run on Saturday Nov. 10 in the auditorium.