Theatre review: Murder Among Friends

OPCT opened the 2014-2015 season with “Murder Among Friends,” a comedy/mystery by Bob Barry. The show opened on October 17, 2014 and will be on stage through November 1 in Orange Park, Florida.

This play debuted in New York in 1975, was briefly on Broadway, and has been staged by a number of community theatres and dinner theatres on and off. It is a clever little whodunit with many humorous and intriguing twists and turns.

The plot revolves around Angela, attractive and very wealthy, who is married to Palmer Forrester, an aging and remarkably grandiose Broadway actor. During the opening scene we learn that Angela is disillusioned with her marriage and in love with Ted Cotton, her husband’s young, handsome, and decidedly virile theatrical agent; they are planning to murder Palmer so they can marry. Well, the plot gets more involved but to tell you more would be a spoiler and we would not want to ruin the surprises.

The play takes place in the Forrester’s elegantly furnished apartment on New Year’s Eve. Two invited guests join the party: Marshall Saidenberg, the producer of Palmer’s current Broadway play, and Gert, his wife. During the course of the evening, the bizarre murder plan, aided by a hired hit man, is enacted, with unanticipated results.

Playing the sexy Angela is Emily Piatt, who moved here from New York where she graduated from the New York Film Academy. We recall seeing Emily previously on the OPCT stage in “Heartbeats” and “Godspell.”

Bill Kroner is excellent as the narcissistic Palmer, who is so impressed with himself that he is always acting, providing a lot of the humor in this play.

Ted is played by Auston Montgomery, who made his theater debut as Samuel Savage in “The Curious Savage.” Auston is a member of The Imaginary Players Troupe.

Eric Sorenson, as Marshall, the frustrated businessman, is making his first stage appearance in several years. His theatre is losing money and he drinks heavily to forget his troubles.

Harriett Leathem has had a long career on the local stages, which has included appearing in many musicals as a singer. She is funny as the innocent Gert caught in the middle of perplexing events.

Mr. Kroner, Mr. Sorenson, and Ms. Leathem are well known to us as critics, as we previously reviewed their work in many productions at the former First Coast Theatre Arts in Jacksonville. All three were board members of that innovative group, which produced such outstanding shows as “Sordid Lives” and “Betty’s Summer Vacation,” two of our all time favorites.

Rounding out the cast is Jeffery Rommel as the chameleon character Larry Prosciutto. Is he a killer? A con man? A lover? We will let you discover that when you see the play.

Director Barbara Wells has cast this show well, and gets every bit of humor out of the script. Barbara and her husband are responsible for the design and construction of the very modern and upscale New York apartment.

Denise French, Stage Manager and Lisa Coughlin, Assistant Stage Manager kept the production on track and handled the various props necessary for a New Year’s Eve party.

OPCT’s program acknowledges the support for this show provided by the Post to Post Links II error: No link found for term slug "Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs" and The Tom Nehl Fund of The Community Foundation.

This lighthearted murder mystery will hold your attention and keep you laughing. At $15.00 for tickets, it is very affordable. Six more performances are scheduled, on October 24, 25, 26, 31 and November 1, 2. Performances are at 2900 Moody Ave in Orange Park. For reservations, call (904) 276-2599 or visit www.opct.org.

 

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.

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