Everybody is familiar with the saying, “The show must go on”. That is the main tenent behind Kentwood Players’ kitschy Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society Murder Mystery. Each actress’s first character is that of one of the members of the Townswomen’s Guild, and the premise is that these ladies are going to be putting on a play, and along with the play, a fashion show, quiz and other Guild activities. However, mayhem alights upon the guild leaving them short actors, which causes the remaining women to have to double up on parts and even enlist the stage manager to step into a role as well. Short on cast and crew, hijinks ensue including wrong sound effects being played, flubbed lines, wrong set pieces and props, and mismatched costume changes.
There are some very funny moments, however a lot of laughs are missed because the Kentwood players are simply trying too hard to get the laugh. In the second act there is an overly elaborate scene change involving every cast member and a couple of crew members coming out on stage and moving chairs around the stage and off the stage for what feels like ten minutes only to wind up with one chair in the middle where the cast plays musical chairs. As soon as the music stops and the chair was claimed the rest of the chairs had to be fetched from off stage for everyone else to sit down before the action could resume. In a play already filled with moments that held up the action – stopping right before the climax to award the winner of the intermission quiz for example – it felt odd to add one superfluously. Not to mention contradictory to the cast members begging forgiveness from the audience every time something went wrong and hurrying back to the action of the play.
While there was quite a bit of overacting, for the most part it fit with the play and was well received. Jayne Hamil as Mrs. Phoebe Reece and Joanna Churgin as Mrs. Felicity Tramwell were each good and turned in memorable performances. However, every role they played was the same character, just different names and costumes. Shaina Zalma who played Ms. Thelma Greenwood did an excellent job differentiating between the characters she played and making them each unique. It was not only refreshing to see the difference, but also provided some very funny moments when her Farndale character would “break character” out of exasperation. A musical number between Zalma and Deborah Ishida, who played the stage manager standing in as the Inspector, highlighted Zalma’s finesse switching between her characters beautifully. Was the play funny? Yes. Could it have been a lot funnier? Definitely. Sometimes less is more.