Friends, this last month I was privileged enough to be invited by New Direction Community Theater to preview their most recent thriller farce entitled “The Murder Room.” Let me expound for a moment upon how monumental this was for me: I have never attended a press invite for a show before it has opened to the public. I’ll just leave it at this: I felt fancier than the time I got to go witness “Hamilton” (thanks again, life partner, for gifting me those tickets) live and in the flesh. When I saw their previous production “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” this theatre company floored me with their authenticity and passion for the art. This experience was no different.
“The Murder Room,” as mentioned above, is indeed a thriller farce. However, it is just about the most dreadfully British (see what I did there?) play that I have ever seen. This serves the production in so many ways and made me feel as though I had just been transported to England. The basic premise of the story is that there is a very newly married couple named Edgar and Mavis Hollister who seems to be a bit at odds with each other.
Mavis had decided that she would like Edgar to be dead so that she can take his money and run off with her lover. After two attempts at murdering him, she believes that she has finally succeeded. However, the police inspector and Edgar’s adult daughter are now sniffing around about Edgar missing and, come to find out, the shots that she fired into him were blanks! You might think I just gave away the plotline but think again. All I’ve given you is the launching pad from which this hilarious comedic farce takes off.
In order to learn more a bit more about this production, I spoke with Didi Olney, the actress who plays Mavis. Here’s our interview:
- This play is a British farce. Do you find that performing in a British farce is any different than an American comedy? (ie: the sense of humor, character/writing style)
The odd thing about this play is that it is a spoof of British Murder Mysteries written by an American author. So, from a writing style, I don’t find it particularly different. The biggest difference to me is the very dry wit. From my perspective, the humor comes through the pure silliness of the plot combined with the back and forth quick-volleys between the characters. Unlike many American comedies that I’ve been in, the language and the delivery of the lines are funny with the visual complementing it rather than depending on the visual portrayal to provide the comedic aspects
2. What drew you to this particular play and character? How do you connect with Mavis as an actress?
I’ve been wanting to do this play for a few years now since I first read the play. Mavis is such a delightful sociopath. It has been fun to play a character who is so completely unconcerned with the needs or thoughts of other people. In order to figure out how I was going to play her, I thought a lot about how to appear concerned and engaged without actually being so. Mavis as a character is constantly acting throughout the show and manipulating those around her, and she has been so much fun to play.
3. How was it finding a balance between the farcical elements and the traditionally darker (ie murder) elements of this play? How did you go about doing that?
I believe that Mavis is the balance in the show. Everyone in the show contributes to the farcical nature of the play, but Mavis seems to be above it with her secrets providing the darker counterpoint.
4. Are there any particular, spoiler-free moments of this play that are your personal favorites? Why?
My favorite moments are when everyone starts in with the verbal volleys, and Mavis abruptly brings it to a stop. Those moments remind me of Monty Python whenever the military officer would come on and stop the skit and call it silly.
5. I was lucky enough to get to see the first act of this show during a press event your company held and I found myself laughing hysterically many times throughout. What do you find to be the best ingredients for a successful comedic farce?
I’m so glad you enjoyed Act 1. I think that the best ingredients are having an ensemble with good chemistry and great timing.
Well, friends, we have come to the end of this A Quick 5. I’ll leave you with this: without a doubt, I will wholeheartedly recommend going to see this production when it opens on Friday, October 4th at 7 pm at the Long Beach Community Center. If you need a good laugh (honestly, who doesn’t at this point?), then this is the show for you. And, hey, we might just run into each other when I go to see it this coming weekend. With eager anticipation, I am looking forward to finding out how this riotously farfetched story ends. See you there!
Running Time: 2 hours with two 10-minute intermissions.
“The Murder Room” will be playing October 4th, 5th, 11th, and 12th at the Long Beach Community Center. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit their website here.