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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Humor in a sense for Richard & Trudy

I got a message this week from my friend across the pond, David Trotter with Exit Theatre in Croydon, inviting me to read the play he had written called "Richard & Trudy"- which by the way, will receive its world premier at The Charles Cryer Studio Theatre, Carshalton on February 23rd to 26th 2011.

You see, Exit Theatre had produced a play I had written called "Murder Me Always" back in August of 2004, so I was more than willing to take an advanced look at David's play.
Now one thing you must understand first of all, is that my sense of humor was shaped at an early age. While my friends were giggling at the lame innuendos on "Three's Company", I was glued to "Monty Python's Flying Circus" on Public Television. While my classmates were running around the school lunch room barking "Nanoo Nanoo" from "Mork and Mindy", I was raising a chorus of "Spam, spam, spam, spam..." or "I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK!"

I admit it, the dry British and somewhat absurdest sense of humor seeped into my system and stayed there. To this day I can quote lines from "Fawlty Towers", "Are You Being Served", "The Young Ones" and many others.

When I began writing plays, several influences found their way into my style. To be honest, I imagined my influences were Woody Allen and Kurt Vonnegut but I had several people tell me my humor was not very American. "What? You're from the States?" "Yep." "Well, then why are you wearing Doc Martins and drinking a bleeding Watneys Red Barrel?"

Anyway,you get the idea.

So, I received the script from David yesterday morning and thought I would glance at it for a couple of minutes before moving onto other things. Well, that didn't happen. I started reading the script and couldn't stop.

"Richard & Trudy" has a setting and tone very similar to "Fawlty Towers" in that a husband and wife team run a small run down hotel in North Devon. Right away, you can't help picturing John Cleese and Prunella Scales as Richard and Trudy, that is until you read on. Later you may be picturing Woody Harrelson and Juilette Lewis in "Natural Born Killers" -only keeping the Cleese humour intact sprinkled with a good healthy dose of sex. What? Did you say "sex"? What's all this then? Here now, I don't want to picture Basil and Sybil in flagrante delicto or engaged in anything but witty biting banter!
No, no. Calm down. There is a brief... well, 'flagrante' bit at the beginning when Trudy catches Richard (with his pants down -literally) on the couch with her best friend Samantha. And later.. well, yea, there is some "discussion" and "suggestion" but the actual "titillation" is left to your own imagination.

Oh yes, and a spot of violence. There's one bit with an axe and well.. you have to see it. But don't lose your head over that fact. Oh and keep an eye out for the scene with the knitting needle.

So, what did I think?

"Richard & Trudy" is a tightly riveted ride on a roller coaster that dips through humor, death, double crosses and sex. The journey is strewn with enough twists and turns to keep the audience guessing and enough witty dialogue and slapstick visuals to create a plethora of LOLs.

So, is it because I am a huge fan of British comedy that lead me to enjoy "Richard & Trudy"? No. It's because I'm a playwright of Comedy Murder Mysteries and I know how difficult it is to walk that thin line between humor and homicide. There is a real art to murdering characters on stage and all the while killing the audience with laughter. It doesn't matter if you're British, American or Scandinavian.

I can say that David Trotter walks that line successfully with his script. He captures the oh-so-delicate "farce" timing that John Cleese and Connie Booth established in "Fawlty Towers' with mistaken identities and slamming doors and then takes it up a notch by blending a touch of sex and violence in the mix.

So, yes. There it is. I thoroughly enjoyed "Richard & Judy" and am very grateful that I was chosen to read it. The only thing I didn't like is... well, that I didn't write it. That and I probably won't get to see it when it opens at The Charles Cryer Studio Theatre, Carshalton on February 23rd to 26th 2011. It's much too far to drive. Oh yea, and Cheers!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Murder Me Always cracks up West Valley High

By VALERIE DEW/The Valley Chronicle
Published: Friday, October 29, 2010 11:50 AM PDT
Murder, mayhem, humor, and on-purpose bad acting will take center stage at West Valley High School’s annual murder mystery dinner, “Murder Me Always.”

The production centers on a theater company that is putting on a murder mystery, except someone really gets killed.

It’s a play within a play, said director Stacey Bailey.

“In the last 10 years, I don’t think I’ve directed a funnier show,” Bailey said.

She said the cast made her laugh until she cried during rehearsals.

“I thought maybe it was just me that thought this was so funny, but I had a friend that came to take pictures for our memory book and she was laughing so hard she said she could hardly take pictures,” Bailey said.

West Valley’s drama department was lucky this year. The writer of the murder mystery, Lee Mueller, went above and beyond for the actors.

Bailey said while she was choosing a production from his Web site, she e-mailed him and asked if he had a holiday show.

“He said he had one that was centered around a birthday party and he could rewrite it to make it work for a holiday party,” Bailey said.

Bailey said he ended up writing a new show and even included references to Hemet.

“I was blown away! I couldn’t believe he e-mailed me back, let alone rewrite a show,” Bailey said.

This is the second year West Valley has put on a murder mystery, and Bailey said it was a success last year.

“It went really, really well. Because it was new, the first night, we had 30 people, but the fourth night, we had 140 people,” Bailey said.

The murder mystery includes dinner and a chance to win a gift basket worth more than $50.

The guests will eat a dinner catered by Sweet Baby Jane’s barbecue restaurant. Dinner includes smoked turkey, roasted potatoes, vegetables, salad, and rolls.

The guests won’t be served in just any dining room. They will be served in the dining room of a haunted mansion, designed by technical director T.J. Hepburn.

“T.J. designed the (band) room to look like a haunted mansion dining room. He even has a false wall and ambient lighting with black tablecloths. It really is neat,” Bailey said.

Once the audience is finished with dinner, it will be escorted into the theater for the first act of the murder mystery.

Then guests will be ushered back into the dining room for an intermission, during which dessert will be served.

“They can go and have coffee and talk about the clues with each other,” Bailey said.

The audience then will be escorted back into the theater, where the cast will await.

The guests will get to ask the cast members questions to figure out who the killer is.

“Nothing is off bounds and they (the actors) have to ad lib and stay in character,” Bailey said. “Every night it’s a different show because the audience is different and they are asking different questions.”

The audience members will cast votes on who they think the killer is. Those who guessed the killer correctly will have their names put into a drawing for the gift basket.

Tickets cost $25 apiece or $45 for two with a memory book included.

Those who reserve and pay for parties of 10 or more will receive a 10 percent discount.

The Associated Student Body accepts credit cards. Those who wish to purchase tickets with a credit card must call 765-1600, Ext. 214.

Reservations must be made and paid for by noon the day of the show.

Showtimes are at 6 p.m. Nov. 4, 5, and 6.

For information or reservations, call the school at 765-1600.