Orange Park Community Theatre (OPCT) opened its first show of 2012 with the North Florida premier of Monk Ferris’s comedy thriller “Lets Murder Marsha” in its North Florida premier. If the name Monk Ferris does not ring any bells, it is because playwright Jack Sharkey only wrote four plays under that name, while he wrote over eighty under his real name. Sharkey’s farce stage thrillers have been very popular with dinner and community theatres.
“Let’s Murder Marsha” is set in a plush Manhattan apartment designed by Director Stan Mesnick. Among other touches, it features a cozy brick fireplace, colorful rose-purple walls hung with oriental portraits, and a large and well-stocked wet bar.
The plot revolves around Marsha Gilmore (Beth Hudson), the very pretty but hare-brained wife of Tobias Gilmore (Darrell Hudson) a wealthy stock broker. Marsha does not work and is addicted to reading murder mystery novels. Since her straitlaced husband does not approve of them and won’t allow her to buy them or read them, she checks them out of the library and reads them while he is at work.
The evening before Marsha’s birthday, Persis Devore (Sara Green), a very attractive and well-dressed woman comes home with Tobias, to secretly make plans for a special birthday celebration they are arranging for his wife. While eavesdropping, Marsha overhears just part of their conversation and jumps to the conclusion that her husband is planning to kill her and run off with this mysterious woman.
Marsha’s maid, Bianca (Kristen Walsh) is told about the alleged plot and suggests that Marsha enlist an ally to thwart the alleged murder scheme. Marsha gains the promise of assistance from her bachelor neighbor Virgil (Ray Chute), by telling him she is in love with him.
At this point the play moves into full farce mode, with lots of twist and turns that are all hilarious. Bianca’s boyfriend, a local policeman (Stephen Lowe) arrives in uniform to take her on a date and Marsha’s mother Lynette (Vickie Lowe) also arrives to bring her daughter a present and becomes entangled in the many misunderstandings that take place.
The first act is funny but like most farces, it is a stepping stone to the wild and woolly second act. We learn that while Marsha and her husband are wealthy, she worries about getting her library books back on time to avoid paying the fine of ten cents a day for overdue books. Bianca, as played by Ms. Walsh, is not your quiet and demure servant, but rather is very outspoken, quite a comic, and helps herself to liberal quantities of the Gilmore’s liquor supply whenever she feels like it.
We are leaving details of just what Tobias has planned for his wife for you to discover when you see the play.
The costumes by Denise French, who is also the play’s stage manager, include casual clothing for the first act, and elegant black and white attire for the second act, when they plan to eat dinner together.
Director Stan Mesnick and Assistant Director Shelley Hayes did an excellent job of casting, with the entire company razor-sharp with their lines and fine comic timing. Beth Hudson as Marsha has a most demanding role and captures the zaniness of the character to perfection. Darryl Hudson as Tobias transitions very smoothly from the loving, concerned husband of the first act to a somewhat absurd character in the second. It was good to see Sara Green back on the OPTC stage and she gives a very solid performance as the interior decorator. Ms. Green will be directing Orange Park’s next show “Arsenic and Old Lace.” Kristen Walsh kept thing moving at a lively pace in the role of the maid; the role will be played by Sarah Pentecost in the performance on January 20th. Stephen Lowe as the policeman and Vicki Lowe as the mother contributed some very hilarious moments as cast members. Ray Chute is no stranger to this type of comedy, as he has been outstanding in a number of performances at OPTC over the years. Ray, a very funny guy, can say as much with just facial expressions as he does with words.
This is a very enjoyable show. While filled with ludicrous situations, it was fun for all and the audience walked out with smiles on their faces. Despite the title, no one dies and there is no objectionable language. If you are looking for lots of laughs, you’ll get it with “Let’s Murder Marsha.”
This show runs through Feb 4th with matinees Sunday afternoons at 3 pm. Call 276-2599 for information and reservations.