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Murderously Entertaining

Laughs don't spoil the plot as one body after another is discovered in this homicidal mystery.

August 24, 2000|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Marquie Dinner Theatre presents an old-fashioned murder mystery in "The House on the Cliff."

George Batson's script is given so melodramatic a treatment that it's sometimes difficult to tell whether the story, here directed by Juanita Seavey, is supposed to be as funny as it is. Whatever the intent, the result is an entertaining evening, and the laughs certainly don't spoil the plot.

Virtually a closed-room mystery, "Cliff" takes place in a lakeside retreat in northern Michigan. Ellen Clayton (Monique Parent) has used a wheelchair since an automobile accident in which her father was killed. Ellen, who was driving, assumes the blame. She's treated by Dr. Lane (Jon Riendeau), who soon leaves, passing her care on to young doctor Corey Phillips (Chris Benson) and live-in nurse Miss Pepper (Karla Marie). Also living in the house are Ellen's stepmother, Karen (Patricia Gillum); and cook-housekeeper Jenny (Patricia Bogost).

Ellen's father died before amending his will to include his new wife, but Karen claims no interest in the substantial inheritance. So, why are the corpses beginning to pile up, by hands unknown? Could it be the ghosts rumored to haunt the area, misfiring duck hunters, or . . . something more sinister?

Batson's script (adapted from a teleplay he co-wrote) plays fair with the audience: Just be certain to pay careful attention during the early exposition. Most of the performances are fine, with Bogost's glum servant a special delight; jitters might have been the cause for the several dropped cues throughout the evening on opening night.

DETAILS

"The House on the Cliff" continues Friday and Saturday evenings through Sept. 30 at the Marquie Dinner Theatre, 340 N. Mobil Avenue in Camarillo. Doors open for dinner at 6:30 p.m.; dinner is served from 7; and the show begins about 8. Tickets, which include a buffet dinner with choice of entrees, nonalcoholic beverages, the show, tax and gratuity, are $35; $32 seniors; and $28 children under 13. For reservations (mandatory) or further information, call 484-9909.

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Director Marjorie Berg is holding auditions Monday and Tuesday evenings for the Marquie Dinner Theatre's production of "On Golden Pond." All roles are open except that of Norman Thayer. Auditions will consist of cold readings from the script, and there is "some pay" for those cast. For further information, call 484-9909.

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Cabrillo Music Theatre will hold auditions the weekend of Sept. 9 and 10 for its production of the hit Broadway musical "Anything Goes." The director will be Larry Raben; choreographer, Gerry McIntyre; and musical director, Nick DeGregorio. Performances will be weekends, Nov. 3-12, at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. Two Actors' Equity guest artist contracts will be filled from the roles of Hope Harcourt, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, Billy Crocker, Moonface Martin and Erma. Equity auditions will be held in Burbank on Sept. 9; non-Equity auditions (including dancers) will be the next day in Thousand Oaks. All auditions are by appointment only: for further information, call 497-8615.

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"Hate Mail," which was conceived as a "Love Letters" parody and during the writing turned into something only vaguely related (it's still an exchange of letters, now between a store and a dissatisfied customer), was a hit at Theater 150 in Ojai earlier this year; the production will move to the Gold Coast Center for the Arts' Backlot Theater (1408 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. in Thousand Oaks) for a monthlong run of weekends beginning Sept. 8. As with the earlier production--and as is usual with "Love Letters," for that matter--casts will alternate from performance to performance. Last year, Gold Coast imported Doug Motel's one-man show "Shiva Arms" from Theater 150 to the same location.

For further information, call 497-8606.

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Todd Everett can be reached at teverett@concentric.net.

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