OCONTO, Wis. (WFRV)
First, something flies through the back window on the set, hitting a small table and sending chess set players flying all over the floor.
Next, the set piece of a fire place with a brick chimney tips over. In the frenzied rush to put the piece back, the fireplace ends up on top. The upside-down fireplace stays that way the whole performance.
And so it goes all the way through the latest production by The Machickanee Players. It is the deliberately very, very mistake-filled and very, very silly play that has a really long title: “The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society Murder Mystery.”
Everything that can go wrong, does – in spades.
And there is a fashion show.
And a quiz.
And a disco dance by a duo in the middle of the action.
And double-meaning, earthy lines to listen for.
This is a very out-there show, all for the fun of it.
Five more performances continue to Oct. 27 in the community theater troupe’s Park Avenue Playhouse, which continues to be gussied up bit by bit.
This show starts the troupe’s 37th season, which will end with “The Diary of Anne Frank.” This play is way, way, way on the other end of the spectrum as a leave-your-cares-at-the-door caper.
The premise is a little play outfit is going to do a murder mystery, but it doesn’t have enough actors to pull it off. Players have to double and triple and more in their roles. And sometimes the script requires one actor with two roles to quick-change in seconds.
Plus, actors in the story forget lines or skip whole scenes.
Plus, cues for lights and sound get messed up. Like: A car crashes at the end of Act I. The sound of the car crashing arrives at the start of Act II.
The play-within-a-play is “Murder at Checkmate Manor.” That story has to do with chess pieces and a will and relatives getting bumped off. All very silly, mind you.
The cast led by director Jenni Fabry and assistant director Kyle Patrick is game for adventure. The funny thing is the five players have to learn all the lines and practice all the action to get it all WRONG.
Sometimes, Abby Frank is a French maid. Sometimes, she is a jaunty horsewoman. Sometimes, she is in a bundle of other roles.
Susie Mozey often is Pawn, a servant. She also slaps on a mustache as a nobleman.
Hayley Maxwell sometimes is the wife of that nobleman, and sometimes she is a dotty spinster with an equally dotty spinster sister played by Mariah Engeldinger. The two characters get confused as to who is supposed to be pushing whom around in a wheelchair.
Mariah Engeldinger often is a beauty queen with a lofty way of talking. She’s in love, too, as the character with a past she doesn’t want to talk about to the Inspector played by Travis Rysewyk. They’re the two who dance.
Travis Rysewyk is the police inspector who tries to make sense of the murder(s) situation when there is no sense to be made.
The play is gosh-awful – as it is supposed to be – with the eager players romping away like free spirits.
Creative: Playwrights – David McGillivray, Walter Zerlin Jr.; director – Jenni Fabry; assistant director – Kyle Patrick; set construction – Jessica Beaumia; Kathy Campshure; stage manager – Jahn Mozey; lights/sound – Mike Hollander
Mrs. Reece, etc. – Abby Frank
Felicity, etc. – Susie Mozey
Thelma, etc. – Mariah Engeldinger
Audrey, etc. – Hayley Maxwell
Inspector, fashion plate – Travis Rysewyk
Running time: One hour, 35 minutes
Remaining performances: Oct. 19-20 and 25-27 at 7 p.m. Friday, 6 p.m. Saturdays (dinner shows) and 1:30 p.m. Sundays (dessert shows)
NEXT: “Monty’s Christmas Magic,” Dec. 13-15.
THE VENUE: Park Avenue Playhouse is located at 408 Park Ave. in Oconto. According to rootsweb.ancestry.com, the building was originally St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, built in 1869. It is of Greek revival architecture style. According to rootsweb.ancestry.com, the building became St. Mark’s Guild Hall when a stone church was built on the corner to the south in 1900. The stone building was razed in the 1990s. The wood-frame building was placed on the National Register of Historic Buildings in 1985. The hall building was purchased by Jim Nerenhausen of Neroco Engineering and Manufacturing of Oconto and gifted to the Machickanee Players. The interior includes a raised stage, a wooden floor seating area with tables for eight and a capacity of around 80. On the edges of the hall are a control room, box office, coat room, concessions window and doorway to rest rooms. The south wall includes photographs of past productions. The 12-foot-high Roman-arch windows that perhaps once held stained glass, are decoratively covered.