With their upcoming production of A Little Murder Never Hurt Anybody on November 11-13 & 17-20th, The Bay City Players step into the fresh water of one of those rare occasions where they can enjoy the latitude of translating the work from a Michigan playwright, Ron Bernas.
The tale centers around the character of Matthew, who vows to kill off his mate Julia before the end of the year, while she remains determined to stay alive at all costs. But when their friends start dropping off like flies, a dimwitted detective starts to suspect it is Julia who wants to knock off Matthew, which is all part of the suspense in this screwball murder-mystery comedy.
According to Director Tina Sills, A Little Murder Never Hurt Anybody won the Community Theatre Association's Michigan New Plays competition and was written back in 1991. It premiered at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial in Grosse Pointe Farms and the playwright was a part of that community theatre group at the time he penned the work.
“Our play reading committee read the play about a year ago and decided it was the kind of comedy our audiences would enjoy,” explains Sills. “I'm not sure, but I suspect one of our long time members and Directors, JoAnne Berry may have suggested the committee read it. She has always been involved with The Community Theatre Association of Michigan.”
Given the 'Made in Michigan' imprimatur of this production, how does Sills approach the work from a directorial perspective? “The play is really an homage to the screwball comedies of the 30's and 40's,” she explains. “That is what really attracted me to it from a directing standpoint. Some of my favorite films are from that genre. And while there are a few references to contemporary items, my concept from the beginning is to give the look and feel of that era - from sets to costumes to the pacing. The cast and I spent time in reading before we began the blocking process, and we also discussed and viewed scenes from a couple of films like The Lady Eve with Barbara Stanwyck and Palm Beach Story with Claudette Colbert.”
The cast assembled for Bay City Players' production consists of six people and Tina says she has a good mix of veteran actors and some that are less experienced, yet talented and eager. Debra Monroe (Bay City) and Paul Oslund (Midland) are the couple who find that their marriage has gone somewhat stale, so for their annual New Year's Eve Resolutions, he resolves to kill her in the next year while she resolves to stay alive and see their daughter Bunny get married. “The audience gets to see how he tries and continues to fail to kill her,” explains Sills, “and from the beginning audiences will never believe for one moment that he will succeed.”
“I am pleased with this cast, as they have a good sense of comic timing and are willing to put in the physicality needed for this production,” she continues. “They also have been able to pick up on the particular pacing of speech that this genre needs, which is what I was looking for in auditions,” notes Sills.
The remainder of the cast consists of Bunny (Therese Mauch of Auburn); Donald, performed by Trevor Keyes of Bay City; Buttram, the butler, played by Michael Wisniewski of Bay City, and Detective Plotnik played by Jim Stewart of Midland.
Although it has not been performed that frequently outside of initial performances by the original group, Sills finds the work to be a diamond in the rough of sorts. “This play is sharp, witty, and breathes new life into the typical mystery,” she notes.
“This has been a delightful experience for me as a director, with a cast of dedicated actors who all have contributed immensely to their characters and have been kind enough to put up with what I call my 'tediousness' in getting things right.”
Production dates for A Little Murder Never Hurt Anybody are November 11-13 and 17-20. Tickets are available at The Bay City Players Box Office by phoning 989-893-5555 or you can go to baycityplayers.com