I could have been like many Americans and stayed home or gone to a bar to watch the Super Bowl and the half-time program. Instead Peg and I drove to CenterStage in Federal Way and joined fifty other people to see The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940. Believe me, I am not disparaging the size of the audience. We thought fifty or sixty people was a really, really good turnout with all the hype going on about the football game. The only way to have had a larger audience would have been to cast Russell Wilson as one of the characters.
The farce featured ten players and a wonderful set that had as many movable parts as the actors. The set was a beautiful gentrified home with a darkly paneled room complete with piano, French doors and a lit portrait of a worthy ancestor. The set design is by Angela Bayler and Jaff Wallace. Bayler was also the director of the play and is the managing director of the theatre.
THE STORY: The creative team responsible for a recent Broadway flop (in which three chorus girls were murdered by the mysterious “Stage Door Slasher”) assemble for a backer’s audition of their new show at the Westchester estate of a wealthy “angel.” The house is replete with sliding panels, secret passageways and a German maid who is apparently four different people—all of which figure diabolically in the comic mayhem which follows when the infamous “Slasher” makes his reappearance and strikes again—and again. As the composer, lyricist, actors and director prepare their performance, and a blizzard cuts off any possible retreat, bodies start to drop in plain sight, knives spring out of nowhere, masked figures drag their victims behind swiveling bookcases, and accusing fingers point in all directions. However, and with no thanks to the bumbling police inspector who snowshoes in to investigate, the mystery is solved in the nick of time and the “Slasher” unmasked—but not before the audience has been treated to a sidesplitting good time and a generous serving of the author’s biting, satiric and refreshingly irreverent wit. – dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=1060
No, this is not Princess Leia with a blaster from Star Wars, this is Noel Pederson rehearsing for The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940. I think at one time or other each character in the play was either armed, disarmed, or dead. There was something going on everywhere across the stage. We looked left and someone died on the right. If we looked right someone dropped to the floor in a dead faint . . . or just dead on the left. (Noel works in marketing for Village Theatre and has acted on the road with Missoula Children’s Theatre and Princess Cruises.)
This is Brad Walker (Eddie McCuen), G. Kent Taylor (Michael Kelly), and Jacob Tice (Ken De La Maize) rehearsing a scene from the play. This farce from the 1980s is based on numerous B&W films from the early 1940s staring Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Kay Kyser, or others. Walker’s character would have been one of those: cracking wise, doing spit-takes, and fumbling and bumbling their way along hoping to get a girl friend. From the murder early in the production and the Three Stooges dead body shtick to the too short impersonation of Marlene Dietrich . . .”Falling in luff again . . . nefer wanted to . . . what am I to do . . . cawn’t help it.” We just laughed and enjoyed ourselves.
Indeed, we could have stayed home and watched the Super Bowl and the half-time program. Instead we drove to CenterStage in Federal Way and joined fifty other people to watch The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940. We made the right choice. When we arrived back home we had missed the super boring 3-0 first half and the less that scintillating half-time show, but I enjoyed the second half battle while visions of fanciful mayhem played in my head . . . while Peg watched Midsomers Murders on streaming cable.
Murders run through February 24th. Call 253-661-1444 for more information or visit centerstagetheatre.com/