Review: The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society Murder Mystery at Theatre in the Heights
Is it supremely reckless or super confident for a community theater company to perform a play about a notoriously bad community theater company performing a bad play? In the case of Theatre in the Heights, it’s a brave attempt to show how adventurous a young theater company can be.
The play is The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society Murder Mystery, a farce about a dedicatedly inept theater group staging a murder mystery. Playwrights David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin Jr. wrote 10 similar comedies before Zerlin’s death in 2001.
Mrs. Reece (Shirley Sayers in a note-perfect performance) struggles to manage the ladies and Gordon (the equally talented Brian Boyle)—the stage manager pressed into playing the defective detective who tries to solve an ever-increasing number of murders.
The comedy is broad—sometimes more broad than the actors’ accents—and there are mishaps aplenty: missed cues, flubbed lines, makeup fails, falling scenery and “dead” characters who may cough, yawn, or even help remove themselves from the stage. It’s all intentional, whether in the script or ad-libbed, according to director Tom Bost.
The game cast also includes Laure Olson, who has performed in many Shakespeare productions, as Audrey and multiple other roles; Ronnie Duska Fowler, who purposely steals (or tries to steal) the show as Thelma; and Shana McCarl shining as Felicity and as Pawn, the butler.