There is a certain buzz of energy, excitement and enthusiasm before the curtain goes up on a high school theatrical production. I remember it well from my schooldays as a young actor in New York, and it was everywhere in evidence when I walked into the auditorium lobby last Saturday night for the closing performance of the Woodlands High School’s production of John Bishop’s amusing 1987 Broadway black comedy, “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940.” And 1940 it would be, thanks to the attractive mansion interior set design of Rafa Monardez & Cammie Chauffe, along with the lovely period costume designs of Madeline Gernhard. The two-dozen young “tech heads” collaborating on the production for such elements as sound, props, lighting, hair design, makeup, carpentry, stage management and electrical work, all combined to effectively create this mysterious and often hilarious world of multiple murders at a country estate isolated by a major snowstorm. (Good special effects there every time the French doors opened.)
The talented cast of eager young actors included Gabi Lechtig-Martinez, Gabrielle Shuttee, Anthony Shortt, Mike Candy, Nolan Heermann, Lauren Witt, Chance Bryant, Katerina Meyer, Vincent Szutenbach, Emily Hammer, and Will Prior. The busy two acts that followed would find murder victims hanging in closets, collapsing in chairs and buried in snowbanks. Of course the phrase “Who dun it?” would loom large throughout with fun-filled performances from the cast.
But in an odd twist, not all the action commanding my attention was on the stage. My guest and I had arrived early enough to secure nice seats in the front of the auditorium’s rear section. A short time later, two heavyset and elderly ladies sauntered in carrying hefty tote or handbags as they proceeded to sit directly behind us. When the play began these two ladies began a loud and non-stop crinkling of cellophane that was incredibly distracting and unmistakably rude toward fellow members of the audience, not to mention the two poor souls sitting right in front of them. It crossed my mind that they might be part of the show attempting to precipitate yet another murder in the audience. What they were eating I am not certain of, but the noise continued even when my guest and I took turns looking back to glare of our dissatisfaction. These old gals could not have been more oblivious. Finally, since I did not wish to create a scene while “working” in a theater, we had no alternative but to get up and climb up to available seats in the next-to-last row at the top. That worked pretty well until Act Two when several students climbed up to sit in the row behind us and proceeded to audibly gab non-stop for the duration of the performance. The school may want to introduce a course in Theatre Etiquette. On a happier note, most of the largely student audience behaved appropriately and enjoyed the show.