Footlighters Murder Mystery is “DEAD”- On!

by Ethel Guy

(L. to R.) Travis Milliman as Ajax Conroy , Amy Glasthal as Trudy Marsh, Ken Wilson as Officer Bainbridge, Joe Lawless as Harnell Chesterton, and Brenna McBride as Blanche LaTorre in YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN DEAD at Footlighters Theater in Berwyn, PA. (Photo by Peter Lach)

Ever go to a show and get so pulled into the action that you forgot where life ended and the show began? It’s an interesting wall to penetrate, and the cast of YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN DEAD at Footlighters Theater in Berwyn will pull you right on through it. Kudos to director Lisa Panzer and her talented cast for taking on this unique twist on the classic murder mystery!

Of course, if you really did go to a theatrical performance where (heaven forbid) someone really was murdered on stage during the show, you would expect the police to seal the theater and question everyone there. What did you see? What did you hear? Do you know anyone in the cast? But this is farce, after all, and when our narrator, Harnell Chesterton, (the dapper Joe Lawless) warns us at the top of the show that we must take care to be very observant because things are not always what they seem, we realize that we are in for an exceptionally interesting evening. No sitting back and passively watching tonight!

Having issued his challenges, Harnell retires to the side of the stage to watch the show unfold. Curtain up: we are in the midst of a community theater play set in the deep south, a play-within-a-play that has more than a few allusions to Tennessee Williams’ famous “Cat”. The “show” goes as planned despite an anachronistic difference of artistic opinions between Harnell and his director Blanche LaTorre (Brenna McBride). We enjoy a delicious sendup of all things Southern featuring Sweet Mama (Bev Smith), Fat Daddy (Anthony Fillipone), their caustic-sweet daughters Savannah (Jane Abbott) and Hyacinth (Christine Rebardo Nelson) and dear confused son Earl (the over-the-top manic Randy Weinstein). Of course we have to have the obligatory slow-witted hired man, Clete (Travis Milliman) involved in this scenario. Dysfunctional family mayhem ensues. Why won’t anyone else taste Fat Daddy’s iced tea? Where are the bullets for his revolver? Do sweet young southern girls usually walk around with weapons in their hands? What DID Daddy learn at the doctor today? And then, surprise, surprise, a murder happens. The faux southerness goes away as the cast realizes that it’s a “real” murder and not the one scripted in their spoof.

But, as Harnell warned us in the very beginning of the show, things are not always what they seem. No one can leave until the mystery is solved!! The action really gets lively when the actors spread out into the audience to interview everyone. This is no small task. It’s improvisational theater inside a spoof inside a play, and this is not easy to do. Lisa Panzer’s cast pulls it off with aplomb. This may be a fun farce, but there are well-developed characters here, an achievement in itself, and staying in character while doing improv is a gift. Every performance is going to be different depending on how the particular audience plays into the scheme. The energy never sags. Go partake. See if you can figure it out – but be prepared to defend yourself! How do we know YOU didn’t commit the murder?

by Pat Cook
Directed by Lisa Panzer
June 4 – 19, 2010
Footlighters Theater
58 Main Avenue
Berwyn, PA 19312

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