People who attend the Porchlight Players Community Theater production of the comedy murder mystery “Drop Dead!” will witness some zany contrasts — a school director threatening an old lady with a gun and a woman from the district attorney’s office wearing little more than fishnet stockings, for example. These are the characters your next-door-neighbor actors become in this play within a play, which takes the stage at the Brush Creek Pavilion in Eagle Ranch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The story revolves around a group of has-been actors who are trying to revive their careers in a run-down theater. They perform a mediocre play, directed by the once-touted, now disgraced Victor Le Pewe. Old animosities resurface between rival actors, and just when the show is about to go on stage, the actors start to drop dead.
The black humor is the classic product of Billy Van Zandt, who co-wrote the play with his wife, Jane Milmore. It premiered in 1991. This is the second time the Porchlight Players have produced it but this cast includes a few new faces and a new director. Other cast members enjoy the chance to reprise old roles or try new ones.
“There’s no going too far — the crazier I can make it the better,” said Kris Keys, who is playing Le Pewe for the second time.
Several cast members actually play two characters since the story is a play within a play. Adding to that sense of chaos is that the inner play involves characters with British accents. Accents are something the community theater generally avoids because it is so challenging to pull off in a consistent, convincing way among all the actors. Since these are actors playing New York actors who are playing British characters, however, the Porchlight Players get to have some fun with it.
“I like exercising the accent,” said Tim Borchard. “At the start it was tough switching between the character with the accent and the one without.”
Lysle Seelig took off his clothes in Porchlight’s production of “The Full Monty” last February, so he’s no stranger to the stage or to the group, but “Drop Dead!” is his first time directing.
“The cast picked three plays for me to choose from, and I told them no musicals,” he said. “I don’t know enough about singing and dancing to direct that stuff, but I’ve been doing community theater a long time and always wanted to give directing a shot.”
Seelig’s wife, Lori Seelig, is helping him out.
“She was a theater teacher, and we met and married doing community theater in Texas,” he said. “I would definitely be more stressed without her. I’d be a basket case.”
Ann Olin is a frequent director of Porchlight productions and stepped into the background for this one to lend moral support to Seelig.
“He’s doing a great job,” Olin said. “If someone has an interest to try something, we’ll get them the support they need.”
Olin said a lot of her work for this production is rounding up costumes and set pieces. Her husband, Randy Olin, is also in the play.
Kabe ErkenBrack, Kamille McKinney and Rita (Boucher) Schneider are the latest to join the Porchlight Players.
“We’re always encouraging new people to join,” Olin said.
ErkenBrack recently returned to Colorado for a job as director of Vail Mountain School.
“I enjoyed acting since I was a kid, but I haven’t done it since college,” he said. “I didn’t think we would have an opportunity like this in a small mountain community.”
McKinney also moved here for a job at the district attorney’s office. Her character is a sultry one, wearing fishnets and high, high heels on stage. In real life, McKinney is decked in courtroom attire, but she isn’t phased by the dichotomy.
“I did a lot of acting in Nebraska,” she said. “I’m used to acting in ‘fun’ outfits, but being mindful of how I’m dressed is a challenge — I have to be careful when I bend over.”
Schneider also has an acting background but this is the accountant’s first time on stage in 39 years.
“I’ve been trying out for the Porchlight productions for a while, but they were all musicals and I’m not much of a singer,” she said.
She plays an old stage star who is losing her senses and provides plenty of laughs in the play, especially when you watch her facial expressions.
“My character says, ‘What?’ a lot,” Schneider said.
As for the veteran cast members, they’re savoring the chance to add a little more depth to familiar roles. When separately interviewed, they described their characters with such words as “flamboyant, neurotic, alcoholic, psychotic” and “ego maniac.”
“We were dying to do this again,” said Randy Olin.
Indeed. You might even say they’re dropping dead.