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Review - Something's Afoot

James Furbush
The Patriot Ledger
March 01, 2006
"Something's Afoot" at Curtain Call Theatre

It's quiet at the Curtain Call Theatre in Braintree as Chris Tilden and Rachel Fisher-Parkman work out the kinks in their dance routine with choreographer Mariam Joseph, in the dark. Then house lights flicker on over the darkened stage, illuminating the threesome, as director Martha Sawyer climbs down from the lighting rails. It is roughly two weeks until the March 10 opening of "Something's Afoot", a musical murder-mystery spoof.

The theater company has to steal rehearsals whenever time permits because there is still a lot of work to do. "I've wanted to do this show since I first saw it (in the 1980s)", Sawyer said. The play had a brief Broadway run in the 1970s, but has become obscure since. The play is reminiscent of the movie "Clue", and loosely spoofs the works of mystery novelist Agatha Christie, specifically "Ten Little Indians."

Set in the 1930s, 10 stereotypical mystery characters are invited to a country estate. When the owner is found dead, the story becomes a race to discover the killer. Of course, many other characters are murdered, along the way. "They die spectacularly," Sawyer said, of the show's appeal. "It's not just that they die, but how they die." And of course, Sawyer would not give away how any of the characters die, lest she ruin one of the better aspects of the show, except she said many of them are from "booby traps or other elaborate means."

Those deaths present the intimate Curtain Call Theatre, which seats 65 to 70, with technical challenges. In such a small space, the audience is just a few feet from the stage. At its best, that intimacy helps break down the barrier between audience and production. At its worst, the opposite happens. "You really have to be on your game," Sawyer said. The deaths have to be executed flawlessly, or they won't be believable.

Curtain Call was founded in 1962, and the company used Thayer Academy's stage for many years. Now the community theater company has its own performance space in a converted church on Commercial Street. Sawyer, who has been with the troupe since 1977 when she began running summer workshops, said having its own space makes sense. "We were losing our shirt" said Sawyer, who is also president of Curtain Call. Financially, they were better off selling out every show at their own small venue, instead of renting a large production space. The smaller venue has not limited the group's ability to perform certain shows, even big musicals. "Except Peter Pan," she said. "There's the whole flying thing, which is tough to do."

With two weeks until the curtain goes up, Sawyer was still worried about this show's music, choreography and technical aspects coming together - but then again, plays always seem to jell in the final two or three weeks, she said. And while she never knows which plays will become crowd pleasers, she feels this one will make the audience laugh, smile and feel scared. "The word is entertained," she joked.

SOMETHING"S AFOOT! At Curtain Call Theatre, 182 Commercial St., Braintree, March 10-12 and 16-18, $18 Friday and Saturday, $16 Thursday and Sunday. All shows at 8 p.m., except March 12 at 2 p.m.