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September 7, 2013

Murder takes a funny turn: Play reminiscent of screwball comedies

JOHNSTOWN — A murder mystery fan loses her head in this fast-paced farce.

“Let’s Murder Marsha” will have audiences laughing Sept. 17-29 at Mountain Playhouse, 7690 Somerset Pike, Jennerstown.

Written by Monk Ferris, this comedy is about a housewife so obsessed with murder mystery novels that she imagines those around her are plotting her murder. The play will be directed by Chan Harris.

 Marsha Gilmore, played by Ashley Puckett Gonzales, is convinced her husband and interior decorator are plotting her murder and tries to turn the tables on her would-be killers. Even Marsha’s mother and her maid’s date are not exempt from her wild assumptions.

The tables are turned on Marsha herself when her intended victims discover her plot and decide to teach her a lesson by actually pretending to be murderers.

Harris said “Let’s Murder Marsha” plays like a screwball comedy of the ’50s or ’60s.

“There is no time set in the script, but it seems to be like an urban, wacky comedy set in the late ’40s or early ’50s like ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ or an extended Lucille Ball episode.”

Harris has ambitious plans to set up the production as a radio play, without the actors standing around at a microphone.

“It will be a hybrid because I want to separate sight and sound and figure out how many props not to use,” Harris said. “There won’t be doors on the set, but the audience will see one actor making the noise while another actor mimes opening a door.”

Harris added he has a great group of actors who will play along with him as he explores something he hasn’t done before.

“The sound effects will add another layer,” Harris said. “The main character’s perceptions are not what is going on. She’s reading something into everything and

giving it a double meaning. This is the story of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. This is an intense, smart, really funny show.”

Harris was excited to start rehearsals last week.

“It will be a lot of fun, like a huge puzzle,” he said. “We have the right people, probably the funniest people we could get or who have ever been seen at the playhouse.”

In addition to Puckett Gonzales, the cast will include Larry Tobias as Marsha’s husband; Sean Patrick Hopkins as the next door neighbor; Sarah Sawyer as a friend and colleague of Marsha’s husband; Charis Leos as the maid; Suzanne Ishee as Marsha’s mother; and Jeffrey Correia as the maid’s boyfriend, who is a policeman.

Puckett Gonzales is returning to the Mountain Playhouse for her fourth season and is looking forward to working with Harris and the cast whom she describes as having a ton of talent.  

“A farce is always fun to do,” she said. “Chan is taking an interesting approach to the piece, doing it as a radio play. Having worked with most of the cast before, it is fascinating to see how well we come together to create something completely new.”

Puckett Gonzales said she enjoys the imaginative side of her character because she herself is very pragmatic.

“Marsha is constantly in these flights of fancy with a vivid imagination and always drawing the wrong conclusions,” she said.  “The comedy is rapid fire and a very fast kind of theater.”

The play will be in two acts and last two hours, including intermission.

Curtain times will be 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays, and 3 p.m. Sundays.

Ruth Rice covers Features for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at


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