Red Mask presents comedy-mystery

Susan Joy McKinney/Commercial-NewsRed Mask Players rehearse their latest production. Cast members are Sara Todd as Nikki Crandall, Jacob Ault as Eddie McCuen, Bryan Schroeder as Roger Hopewell and Tim Kirby as Patrick O'Reilly.

DANVILLE — Red Mask Players will take a good-natured jab at 1940s murder mysteries this weekend and next.

The group’s second show of its 80th season, “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940,” will be presented Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and also Feb. 3, 4, and 5 at the Kathryn Randolph Theater.

Friday and Saturday shows start at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m.

Director Mike Young described the play as a farce that the author, John Bishop, based on mystery movies of the 1940s. Specifically, it draws heavily from the 1939 “The Cat and the Canary,” one of Bob Hope’s first films.

“There are funny lines and mannerisms,” Young said of the Red Mask play. The humor stems from more than just the dialogue, he said, explaining the way the characters react to each other is humorous.

In the play, the creative team responsible for a recent Broadway flop (in which three chorus girls were murdered by the mysterious "Stage Door Slasher") assemble for a backer’s audition of their new show at the estate of a wealthy "angel." The house is replete with sliding panels, secret passageways and a German maid who is apparently four different people — all of whom figure diabolically in the comic mayhem that follows when the infamous "slasher" makes his reappearance and strikes again and again.

The cast includes: Gaye Garner as Helsa Wenzel, Jamey Coutant as Elsa Von Grossenknueten, Brittni “Mac” Waites as Sergeant Kelly, Tim Kirby as Patrick O’Reilly, Chad Myler as Ken De la Maize, Sara Todd as Nikki Crandall, Jacob Ault as Eddie McCuen, Leslie Van Camp as Marjorie Baverstock, Nanci Heaton as Bernice Roth, and Bryan Schroeder as Roger Hopewell.

There’s also an 11th character, an unnamed dark figure.

Leslie Van Camp said of the play, “It’s outrageous. It’s very funny. It’s a really fun show.”

She said it reminds her of the game “Clue,” with its big house, secret passageways and a murderer lurking about, adding, “It’s a typical whodunit.”

Van Camp portrays Marjorie Baverstock, a Broadway producer who flatters everyone around her, and speaks in elevated language. “I’m a bit haughty,” Van Camp said, describing her character, who’s very self-important.

Referring to the other characters, she said, “They’re all pretty quirky, over the top and funny.

The play is mostly geared toward adults, and older youth might enjoy it, she said.

This is Van Camp’s fourth Red Mask play, and she was one of the original actors with the Prairie Gold Players. That group, founded by Young, did a series of comedy skits in the winter and spring of 2014, at various locations, including O’Brien’s Corner Tavern.

This is Young’s first time directing for Red Mask.

FYI

Make reservations and pick up tickets during box office hours at the theater from 7-9 p.m. tonight and Feb. 2, or visit the website www.redmaskplayers.com.

Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors age 60 and older, and $15 for students.

You also may call 442-5858 or email redmaskplayers@hotmail.com and leave the following information: name, date you wish to attend, number of seats you need, how many people are season members and an evening phone number.