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Little Theatre production is homage to screwball comedies

Little Theatre production is homage to screwball comedies

November 8th, 2018 by Samantha Pogue in Life & Entertainment

(Photo by Samantha Pogue) Detective Plotnik, played by Greg Barnes, back right, tells a story to the uniterested Perry family and their butler during rehearsals of the comedy "A Little Murder Never Hurt Anybody" Oct. 30 at The Little Theatre building.

Your spouse says, "I'm going to kill you." And to top it off, it is a New Year's resolution.

That is what Matthew Perry says to his wife Julia in the theatrical production, "A Little Murder Never Hurt Anybody." But Robert Bernas's play isn't one filled with dramatic doom and gloom. It is a homage to the screwball comedies of the '30s and '40s, filled with fast-paced wit and hilarity that follows a Julia's clever dodges of Matthew's failed murder attempts, their daughter's uncertainty of hosting her wedding amid the circumstances and a clueless detective who poorly attempts to solve the mysterious deaths of those close to the well-to-do Perry family.

"It is a tribute to the screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s. Back then, they were fast-talking farces involving battle of the sexes and the world forever on the brink of chaos," said Claudia Scott, director of The Little Theatre's presentation of "A Little Murder Never Hurt Anybody" Nov. 15-17 at Miller Performing Arts Center. "It is a farce a true comedy of errors."

Scott herself stumbled into acting when she auditioned for The Little Theatre's "A Christmas Carol" on a dare. She secured a role as the wife of Scrooge's nephew and fell in love with theater. Now, 25 years later, Scott has played numerous roles including Mother Superior in "Nunsense" and has directed several including "First Baptist of Ivy Gap" and a Sherlock Holmes production.

"A Little Murder Never Hurt Anybody" is a play Scott has wanted to bring to The Little Theatre stage about three or four years ago, and now will make its debut next week. Scott could not be happier with the six-member cast, who keep the laughs coming and complete the vision she has for the local production of the play.

"It is seeing something in a book, picking the cast and seeing those words brought to life. Then you get to have input from your actors and set people. Your vision comes to life because of everyone involved," Scott said. "Seeing it all come together is just amazing. There is nothing like live theater. We have a great group of volunteers. Everybody has a part to play in it and without one part it wouldn't happen; it is a collaborative effort."

Acting like a middle-aged married couple Matthew and Julia Perry was not a far stretch for friends Brian Harper and Maggie Eggen, who have played married couples before on stage.

"I saw the script months ago while I was still (co-directing) 'Mary Poppins.' I read the first page and a half and I was laughing out loud. Brian and I talked about it together. Our personal relationship is much like this couple I love you but I also hate you. That is how we talk to each other, so we really don't have to do any acting," Eggen said with laughter.

Amid the murder attempts and the unexpected deaths, Matthew and Julia's daughter Bunny, played by Elizabeth Weider, is hoping to marry her attorney fiancé Donald Baxter, played by John Hardin, who has acted in more than a handful of plays with The Little Theatre.

However, Bunny is uncertain if she should call off the wedding, or remember just the simple things in life.

"She is a little bit ditzy. She gets by with cute looks and a smile," Weider said, noting she has acted for The Little Theatre since she was 13 years old in her first show, "Seussical." "She is very oblivious to a lot of this. It is really fun to play stupid."

Donald tries to get to know the family through the chaos, as well as continue to love Bunny. He also encounters the Perry family butler Buttram, played by Keith Krueger, a stoic servant with an interesting background who has worked there for 23 years.

"He discharges his duties well and is very professional, thinking he is slightly above the family," said Krueger, who first started acting with The Little Theatre in the late 90s and has performed in about 20 plays including his first, "Arsenic and Old Lace."

As the plot truly thickens at the Perry household, Detective Plotnik, played by Greg Barnes, attempts to solve the crimes but instead suspects everyone without having a clue whodunit.

"I enjoy Bunny talking to Plotnik. Plotnik walking around doing his observations as to crimes and the way he delivers them," Scott said. Barnes fell into acting through a theater class requirement and came back to the stage now performing in five plays with The Little Theatre.

With a surprise twist the audience will not see coming, Barnes said, the cast and crew find if they are still laughing out loud to the entire play after three months of rehearsals, they know the audiences will be, too.

"It is a heartwarming story, its message is about love," Hardin said smiling as his fellow cast and crew laughed.

"Yes, it is a heartwarming tale about murder," Scott added as laughter ensued.

Tickets are $15 per person. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15-17 at Miller Performing Arts Center. Tickets can be purchased online at tlt.org, by calling 573-681-9400 or the box office the week of the show from 5-7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and 5 p.m. on show nights.