Tara Hipple, Colleen Mackle & Jeff Rife in a scene from CAHOOTS at The Playmasters.

In CAHOOTS with the Playmasters

by Lesley Grigg
Tara Hipple, Colleen Mackle & Jeff Rife in a scene from CAHOOTS at The Playmasters.

Tara Hipple, Colleen Mackle & Jeff Rife in a scene from CAHOOTS at The Playmasters.

How to conduct yourself at a dinner party is a lot like how to conduct yourself at a crime scene, especially if they are one and the same. You want to try not to say too much and get yourself into trouble and cleaning up after yourself is common courtesy. Such rules of courtesy are broken when a dinner party takes an interesting turn, forcing its guests in CAHOOTS with each other.

The curtain opens and immediately sets a mysterious scene. An intruder with flashlight in hand searches an apartment until interrupted by two chatty females. We meet Jan (Colleen Mackle) and Lois (Tara Renee Hipple) as they discuss their professional and personal lives all while Al (Richard Hall) listens discreetly until surprising facts are disclosed and force him out of hiding. Once Ken (Jeffrey Rife) arrives and dinner is served, tensions start to grow within the group. Ironically, what is supposed to be a gathering to raise awareness on crime and self-defense becomes its own crime scene where those at fault concoct stories defending themselves.

Act one begins slowly as it’s filled with casual conversation. There’s not a whole lot for Mackle and Hipple to work with until the action picks up in the second half of the act. Once the play gets moving, the two ladies respond accordingly and provide a majority of the entertainment and laughs with their comedic timing and well-paced reactions. Hall plays his part of a serious crime buster dryly, but that’s part of his appeal. However, there are really no waves of emotion in his character at all, and when given the circumstances that we discover throughout the play, maybe there should have been. Rife also plays it very cool through a majority of the play, and seeing as multiple murders happen in his character’s presence, one has to wonder if he’s playing an architect or a seasoned serial killer.

The second act is much more lively as the group rehearses their plausible stories that only end up unraveling uncontrollably. The only lag can be felt at the end of the act once there is another “accident” to cover up and it seems the play just started again from the beginning. Grant (John Cherney) shows up in act two and is thrown into the middle of some very entertaining scenes. Even as a serious security guard with seedy motives, he seemed to have trouble holding back some of his laughter.

Overall, CAHOOTS entertained and made audience members laugh out loud. It combined comedy with important lessons in self-defense and self-control.

by Rick Johnston
Directed by Kathy Garofano
February 15 – March 3, 2013
The Playmasters
State Road
Bensalem, PA 19020

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