Murder on Cue — Great Cast Work

Somebody asked me to review “Murder On Cue” this year’s fund raiser for Newark’ Del. Chapel Street Players, playing this weekend and next. For more info go to
The cast is so huge I won’t be able to mention everyone; they were all wonderful.
The show starts out, it seems, as an homage to the 1976 Neil Simon comedy “Murder by Death” and the longtime favorite board game Clue. I could be wrong, but it sure felt that way.
There’s the deaf housekeeper, the nun with a vow of silence, the beauty queen, and the usual suspects in any mystery spoof. It was actually quite effective. This campy tribute goes on for about 15 minutes.
That’s where things change.
Scott F. Mason, the Writer and director of “Murder on Cue,” is shot. The house lights come up and an investigation of the entire cast, crew, and house staff begins under the watchful eye of FBI Agent Sawinski played with pitch perfection by Andre Wilkins.
I knew he was a good actor, but his performance last night cemented him as a great leading man kind of guy.
A plug for Nicole Pierce. She has a certain indescribable vibe (or presence) that I just love; she was her usual superb self this particular evening. Will someone please put her in a leading role!? Jeepers.
Back to the show.
I don’t know if I had ever seen Courtney Lynahan before, but I really liked her as the vow of silence nun and the pilfering cast member (oops don’t want to give too much away).
I can’t go any further without mentioning five of my favorites in the CSP stable of stars. I just love Michelle Cullen, Judy David, Peter Kuo (who is hilarious btw), Michelle Opaleski, and Brian M. Touchette. Each one was superb and acted with great skill. They heightened the tomfoolery and suspense. Bravo!!
As I said in previous reviews – I love Susan Boudreax and Susie Moak. They knock my socks off.
I had never seen Ann Matthews act Before, but she too, was a delightful surprise. She appeared with her husband of 33 years Pete Matthews. I had never seen him act either. Whenever I see him he has a hammer in his hand; this time he had a cigar. Regardless of hand tool, he did an excellent job.
Remember the gloriously evil bad guy in CSP’s production of 1984? That was Zack Jackson. In this show, he played a hilarious loudmouth plumber and then himself as the show progressed. BTW, he has one of my favorite actor skills – he makes great faces.
I’ll tell you who doesn’t get enough credit around here — Heather McCarty. She is a blast to watch and also makes great faces. I always see her doing something interesting down stage left. Isn’t that weird?
Renee G. O’leary celebrated her 55th consecutive fund raiser. She was delightful as Boddy and took a second to show off her great legs to audience.
Danielle Jackomin played bestselling murder mystery novelist LC. She is always fun to watch. Pay attention to her last couple of minutes on stage, those are pretty special.
I don’t know who Darin Bishop is. I think he got swallowed up in the crowd of actors after the shooting of Mr. Mason. He is listed as the EMT in the program, so maybe I had a bad seat and just couldn’t see him.
The last time I saw Patricia Lake was last Spring when she appeared in Holy Traffic. She was delightful.
I really enjoyed Matthew Brown’s performance of Newark policeman Bernhart. It had an honesty and naivety that was really refreshing when juxtaposed to the snarky witness interviews of Mr. Mason’s shooting/murder.

Walt Osborne played Major General Cleopold Poupon and was especially good throughout the sho0,w but really shined in the first few minutes with a small dance bit that got entire audience clapping.
I guess that’s it. Not a whole lot more to say. There is a bunch of people acting and you’ll like them. The show and the cause (CSP Fund Raiser) are a good place to spend your entertainment dollar. So go see it.


Just Words Slayed It Last Week


The amazing cast of Just Words From L Shannon Carter; Sam Dressler, and Tom Slater

The cast and directing of Lyn Anderson’s play “Just Words” have been overshadowed by “Jumping” and “Meant To Be.” That’s probably my fault – at least as far as these blogs have gone.
So let me state for the record – such as there is one – that the cast of “Just Words” knocked it out of the park. They did exactly what I asked, and they worked their tails off.
They did great, but I should have done more.
I should have gone bigger. I should have added sight gags. I should have had Sam Dressler do a whole Art Carney routine about getting the scrabble tiles out of the bag; I should have had Shannon Carter really ham it up getting the cork out of the wine bottle; I should have added cell phone sounds, and I should have put Tom Slater in a dress.
Poop, poop, poop!
If I get another change with Tom, HE IS WEARING A DRESS! I don’t care what the role is.
Anyway, it was a great month and a half and am very proud of my cast. I just wanted to tell the world, that although two other shows are going forward to the state competition, my guys were superb, and they got the audience to laugh when they were supposed to. .
Oh by the way – we had a lot of fun. I guess that’s all you can hope for.


One of my favorite stupid short plays

Mrs. Johnson about 50 walks up to a pharmacy window, her hands are full of different things she ‘s bought to pad her order. She quietly puts the items on the counter and organizes them to make it easier for the Diane. She is very reserved – shy. The woman nervously pulls a prescription out of her pocket. The Diane begins ringing up the items



Okay. Spearmint gum. Mouthwash. Spice drops. You know I love spice drops they’re one of those quiet sellers. Everybody loves them, but nobody ever talks about them.


Mrs. Johnson

Yeah, I know.



When was the last time somebody said, ‘I had a great spice drop yesterday?’ You know? I mean I don’t think I ever heard that.


Mrs. Johnson

Nor I.



Weird huh? Let’s see what else we have? You’re Mrs. Johnson right?


Mrs. Johnson

Yes. Surprised you know that.



I try to remember everyone that comes here. You’ve been coming here for years. Customer service, that’s what I’m all about. Dishwashing detergent? A hand towel. What’s this? (beat, shouting) BETH! BETH!


Beth (the Pharmacist, shouting back)




How much are the Trojan condoms?!






Trojans? You know the ribbed condoms?


Mrs. Johnson

No that’s okay. I, I, I …



How would I know? You know the last time I needed condoms?



It doesn’t matter. Mrs. Johnson wants them. There not for you. (To Mrs. Johnson quietly) If she could get ahold of the stock boy she’d find them pretty quick.


Mrs. Johnson

Okay. I can do without.



Do without? Not on my watch. I’m getting you condoms. I got this. (the Diane gets on the loud speaker). Price check! Price check! (to Mrs. Johnson) What aisle?


Mrs. Johnson (in shock)




Price check aisle nine Trojan ribbed condoms – color black. Do they have to be black?


Mrs. Johnson (quietly)

No uh, any color’s fine. I didn’t notice they were colored. Can I say colored? Should I say black? This is so confusing.



If you want it black, we’ll get you some black. (on the loud speaker) Any color’s fine, but she really likes them black.


Mrs. Johnson

Thank you but …


Beth (shouting)

Got ‘em. They have lubricant here too. Would you like some lubricant?


Mrs. Johnson

I, I, I don’t know. I, I, This wasn’t my idea.



Shoot some lubricant over too!


Beth walks over and hands the condoms and lubricant to the Diane.



I brought the regular stuff and the stuff that heats up after you apply it, you never know.


Mrs. Johnson

I wasn’t expecting so many choices. (beat) Thanks. I’ll take them both? It used to be easier.



Good thinking.


Diane nods conspiratorially



Is there anything else?


Mrs. Johnson

Just this?


Mrs. Johnson hands her a prescription.


Diane (Shouting again)

BETH! We have a prescription; need you over here.


Beth walks up and looks at the prescription.



Your doctor called this in already.


Mrs. Johnson

Thank you.



Diane can you get this for me? It’s right over there.


Beth gives Diane the prescription and

Diane rifles through some bins on a shelf


Diane (talking to herself really)

Viagra, Viagra, where is that now. It shouldn’t be that hard to find. You’d think it would just stick out.


Mrs. Johnson just watches in horror.



It’ll just be a second. Can you give me your insurance card?


Mrs. Johnson starts looking through her wallet.


Mrs. Johnson

It’s right here. Wait a minute.



Got it!


Diane brings a small white bag to Beth. Mrs. Johnson gets frantic looking through her purse


Mrs. Johnson

I can’t find my card.



I really need the card or your insurance won’t cover it.


Mrs. Johnson

But, I’ve been coming here for years. My insurance hasn’t changed.



I know that, but I need the card.


Mrs. Johnson (Almost hysterical)

And I need those pills. I need to see my husband’s manhood in full flower. The heat of his loins fully exposed. His hardness between, between, between my um, um, um. I (beat) Need (beat) Those (beat) GD pills! And I swear to God I will bring the insurance card in the morning. Do you have any idea how long it has been since I, I, I aaaaaaaaaaaah!


Beth and Diane stare at her for a moment



Okay. It’s not that big of a deal. They are only $15 bucks a pill without insurance. How many do you want?


Mrs. Johnson

$15 dollars! That’s just a bottle of wine! Give me thirty dollars worth – now. And ring this shit up.


Diane moves in and finishes ringing up the purchases



That’s $65. 33.


                                                                                    Mrs. Johnson gives her some bills grabs her

                                                                                    bags and runs out



Your change! Your change! (beat) Jeez what’s her problem?



She needs to get laid.



NO kidding!

My Theater Weekend Blog #2 Screaming Into the Surf

I am obsessed – with Veterans reemployment. It keeps me pacing the floors at night. I’m not as smart as Arthur Miller to write some veiled treatise like his Crucible about McCarthyism. Nope.  I have to go to my first instinct – theater of the absurd.

That’s what I did with “Screaming Into the Surf.” I saw a documentary about brigands running all over Europe after the Crusades and wondered what would happen if today’s combat veterans chose a life of crime.

I saw how hard it was for vets to get jobs when they first returned. And wanted to capture that. That’s what “Screaming Into the Surf” is all about.

It got its first script in hand reading several years ago and it sat in my inbox just niggling at my inner conscience when I submitted it to the Reedy Point Players 2018 One Act Festival.

Since it need a director I asked around and Marshal Manlove said he’d do it.

Marshall was a great choice. He brought a wry humor to my absurd script about a guy who gets fed up with having doors slammed in his face and decides to lead a life of crime after returning home. He was in fact going to be a brigand or art thief.

Marshall got it! Bravo!

Anyway, Katie Jerzak played the wife and (returning vet herself) with a depth of emotion that had me choked up as I sat in the audience. She moved across the stage with a tortured gait I hadn’t considered.

Fran Lazartic was excellent as the tortured vet coming to grips with the futility of job searching and the diminishment of his military experience. He was tragic. He too had me twisted in knots as I watched every step and nuance of his performance.

Sometimes it’s a shame there are awards for theater because this show had moments of desperation and deep feeling equal to any on the stage this past weekend.


Husband and Wife Team Tackle Directing Someone Else’s Work

It’s just about start.
Actually, it starts tomorrow at about 7 pm. when the directors for the Reedy Point Player One Act Festival have the first round of auditions at the Delaware City Community Center from 1900 to 2100 (okay 7 pm to 9 pm).
It’s going to be pretty cool. I have two shows being staged by two different directors. Each is kind of a fractured story (ala Fractured Fairytales). One is about Veterans unemployment and the other is about suicide (kinda).
That’s not what is causing me anxiety, I am directing a laugh-out-loud riot about a Scrabble Game gone awry.
I am pretty nervous about directing someone else’s work, but t he script is so strong, I might not be able to screw it up. I do have that going for me. I am thinking about casting it a bit differently than the great author Lyn Anderson intended. I’ll have to see how the spirit moves me.
For the next few days I’ll be reading and rereading the script to make sure I know what I need.
Since it is a festival I am thinking the more austere the better for my set. I only have two lighting cues to sort out. I need different parts of the sage dark at different times to pull this off.
More to follow.
I hope people come out.

My Heroic Dog

P1070152Tuesday night my house was besieged by all manner of goblins, ghosties, and long-leggedy beasties, but I need not have worried because my killer dachshund was on duty.

Sometime around 1830 the undead began staggering up my front steps with their fake politeness and equally false salutations.

“Happy Halloween! Trick or Treat.”

I was on to them; they were after my Kit Kats — all of them (the sentence parallelism was intentional). Each of those despicable monsters wanted to relieve me of my hard-earned confectionary delights. I relented to ensure my safety.

But Bandit, my ever-present sidekick, me Cerberus – he was there watching. Always watching.

He’d stealthily approach the glass storm watching from his ankle high vantage point, the undead pretending to be babies in a supposedly cute Spiderman outfit. He watched, counting as the Kit Kats, in my large green bowl, became fewer and fewer (that’s right I keep all my Kit Kats in a green bowl).  

The cute tiny ghouls must have signaled their larger villainous partners because each ring of our doorbell brought more specters to my door – there were undead pirates, witches, and princesses. Each came shambling up my walkway with their hideous chants “Trick or Treat, trick or treat.”

It was horrible.

When there was a lull in the onslaught. I went to the living room, trying to comfort my distraught wife. She was pretending to calmly watch TV.

“Any cute costumes?” she asked.

I was worried she too had become one of them.

The one creature in this world I can count on – brave, brave Bandit — took up a defensive position in the archway which separates the kitchen form the living room. He was as immovable as Mt. Rushmore. He stared at the evil front door. His stubby little Dachshund legs tensed to waddle into action. I never felt so secure and thankful as my canine Heimdall guarded our rainbow bridge leading to me, my wife, and our Kit Kats.

Oh and he bravely sat there; resolute in the doggy knowledge he was saving us from a fate as bad as death – no Kit Kats.

One or two more phantoms extorted candy from us, but the ambling dead tapered off at about 2030 – word must’ve gotten out that my Argos, my Bandit was on the job.

Exhausted, I flop in my chair. Mighty Bandit jumped in my lap and settled in. My wife, feigning clam, turned to me and asked, “Anymore Kit Kats?”

First Night On Stage

Last night, Thursday 18 April 2017 was the first night the cast of “The Maltese Duck) hit the Reedy Point Players stage in Delaware City, Delaware. I’ll talk more about the actual stage in a different post, but it has a proscenium arch and I love that word.

Kate and I (co-directors) watched as the Sherry Stricko, Brooks Black, and Nicole Pierce took to the boards. Since we are a few weeks from the June 17 “One Stage, Many Stories” event, the stage was empty. We got a bench and a few chairs from a back room and simulated the set.

Kate and I blocked the movement on a white board before coming to rehearsal, but we wanted to run it through without blocking to see what the actors did and see if an “organic” blocking was better.

Glad we did.

The actors surprised us with some imaginative things we had not considered; it was really quite beautiful.

Kate and I gave some initial notes and the blocking changed a tad and the actors used different emphasis on their parts. It all went better the second time around.

Being first time directors, Kate and I were a bit hesitatnt to give notes because we figured the actors knew more than we do. On the way home, we talked awhile and had an epiphany.

Part of our job is not only to create a production in line with our vision, but the actors are counting on us to make sure they have a safe place to apply their craft.

Part of making the safe place is to see things they can’t because they are right in the middle of what they are doing and don’t have an outside perspective.

Lucky for me, I chose great actors so my life is easy, but that idea of keeping the stage a safe place is pretty important stuff.