On paper, comedies and thrillers don’t go together, but the latest St. Luke’s Players production is mingling suspense and humour in an exciting new show.
Opening Wednesday night, the community theatre group’s rendition of James Yaffe’s Cliffhanger is an ingeniously plotted thriller about Henry Lowenthal, a mild-mannered philosophy professor who’s driven to murder to protect his reputation and career. Lowenthal and his wife Polly dispose of the body, but a nosy student of his named Melvin McMullen witnesses the act and threatens to go to the police – unless Lowenthal raises his failing grade.
All the while, Lt. David DeVito is on the case, adding another element of comedy to the suspenseful and unexpected events building up to the play’s big twist in the second act.
“We really push that hard that Melvin’s a really screwed up kid,” said director Penelope Harwood, “and the policeman is also a bit of a bumbling officer. Those are the real comedic elements in the play.”
Cliffhanger was chosen for the St. Luke’s 2015-16 season by its play reading committee for its ability to be recreated on their stage and its appeal to their usual audience. However, the script still needed some tweaking from Harwood.
“I had to cut a fair amount because Henry, the philosophy professor, loves to philosophize – he goes on and on and on and on,” she said.
“My main concern when directing a play is casting. If you cast well, a lot of your work is done for you, and I think I’ve cast well in this one.”
The St. Luke’s players started working on Cliffhanger at the beginning of January, after the pantomime Mother Goose wrapped up. Harwood said the cast rehearsed three to four times per week, and the production took dozens of people to put together.
“For every person you see onstage, there are probably five people putting them there,” she said. “There are at least 30 people working on this production. There’s a whole crew designing the set and building it, and that takes weeks and weeks.”
The St. Luke’s Players have 12 performances scheduled from March 9 and 20, and Harwood said the cast and crew are prepared for opening night this Wednesday.
“They’re ready for an audience,” she said. “You get a cast to a point where they need an audience, and that’s what you want – you want them peaking just in time for the opening.”
St. Luke’s Hall (located at 3821 Cedar Hill X Rd.) will host 7:30 p.m. shows on March 9 through 12 and 16 through 19, as well as 2 p.m. matinées on March 12, 13, 19 and 20.
Tickets are available online at stlukesplayers.org/tickets.html, by phone through Ticket Rocket at 250-590-6291, or in person at the Ticket Rocket box office, located at #2 – 1609 Blanshard St. Tickets may also be available at the door on performance night, subject to availability.
For more information, visit stlukesplayers.org.