Understanding obsession

Brenda Gough takes a look at latest theatrical offering

If you want to spend the evening enjoying a classic mystery just before Halloween check out the first production of ECHO Players 2011/12 season and see if you can figure out who killed Laura.

Directed by Werner Koch the play Laura is billed as a classic American detective story against the dawning of the modern jazz age.

Written in 1943 the play centres around Laura Hunt, the ideal modern woman: beautiful, elegant, highly ambitious, and utterly mysterious. No man could resist her charms … not even the tough NYPD detective sent to find out who turned her into a faceless corpse.

As this tough cop probes the mystery of Laura’s death, he becomes obsessed with her strange power. Soon he realizes he’s been seduced by a dead woman … or has he?

In mounting the production, effects are used to make the era come to life. During the 1940s, smoking cigarettes was common, so fake cigarettes that only give off a harmless vapor are smoked. As the love story and murder mystery collide on the stylish set that catches the era, some darkly complex characters including a woman who stands as the ultimate femme fatale are what make the production come alive.

The play has two great strengths. The first is Samantha Bau an ECHO alumni who plays the title role.

Bau is not only strong in her role, her presence on stage is what brings all the characters she has dialogue with to life. It is hard not to take your eyes off her, particularly with her marvelous costumes that depict the era to a T.

The play’s second strength is Brian Lecky as the villainous Waldo Lydecker.

 

Waldo is Laura Hunt’s mentor and Lecky convincingly portrays the vain, deliciously nasty, newspaper columnist who narrates an ingenious plot twist throughout the three act play.

Without revealing too much, the play opens with detective Mark McPherson falling in love with Laura. He knows he’s in love with a phantom — for Laura is dead, and he’s in charge of her murder investigation.

As this tough cop probes the mystery of Laura’s death, he becomes obsessed with her strange power.

Colin Partridge brings a cool charm to the role of detective McPherson but could be a bit more convincing portraying the character as a hardboiled NYPD investigator.

Laura’s parasitic playboy fiancé, Shelby Carpenter is played by Scott Murray, who adopted a southern drawl for the part.

The role of Shelby is Murray’s first attempt at a non-musical/non-comedy character and his portrayal as a southern gentlemen occasionally was lost when his accent slipped.

Margaret Jenkins shines in the small role of Bessie Clary, Laura’s loyal housekeeper.

As Mrs. Dorgan, Laura Aitken gives as strong performance a the bitter landlady of the swanky Upper East Side third floor apartment she leases to the elegant Laura Hunt who is a bad influence on her young son Danny.

Brayden Osborn plays his role as Danny Dorgan with an innocent charm.

It is the first production with ECHO Players for the Grade 10 student from Kwalikum Secondary School and his charismatic performance points to a promising acting career.

An endless string of men were obsessed with Laura and the audience must try to understand the obsessions to unravel the mystery of what happened to her.

The play moves briskly along the who-done-it path winding through the growing relationship between McPherson and his dream come true.

The set is polished and the stylish art deco furniture truly reflects the period.  Some of the furniture pieces on stage will be for sale after October 30.

Laura runs until October 30 at The Village Theatre located at 110 West 2nd Avenue in Qualicum Beach. Tickets for the 2011-2012 season are now available. Call 250-752-3522 to request a brochure or to book your season tickets.

 

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