Drama To Die For


Looking for a good whodunit to get you in a spooky, Halloween mood? The Center Players of Madison are performing "Rehearsal for Murder" by D.D. Brooke this month, and we're all invited to put on our thinking caps and try to guess the killer. (Hint: There's no butler, so you can't blame it on him.)

Originally conceived as a television movie for intrepid detective Columbo, "Rehearsal for Murder" hinges on the hunch of famous New York playwright Alex Dennison. Exactly one year before the play's inception, Dennison opened a stage play to mixed critical reviews. The show happened to star his fiancée Monica Welles, a famous screen actress. Before the sun rose on day two of the play's run, Monica was found dead, apparently after a tragic leap from her high-rise apartment window. The police quickly closed the case as a suicide, but Dennison had suspicions of murder. One year later, the playwright schedules an eerily true-to-life play reading designed to catch a killer. He recreates that fateful opening night, bringing back the cast, director and producer from the production. As each individual reads scenes exposing hypothetical motives for murder, the players begin to realize that art is imitating life in some very uncomfortable ways.

"'Rehearsal for Murder' is not just a mystery," says director John Read, who petitioned the board of The Center Players to both choose the play for the season and allow him to direct it. "The whole play has been set up to trick the killer into admitting guilt. From the beginning, Dennison believes he knows who the killer is. He just has to prove it."

Read, a Madison resident making his directorial stage debut with this production, has a professional history in both television production and graphic design. The script follows (and references) the "play-within-a-play" device that Shakespeare himself employed in "Hamlet." "Rehearsal for Murder" employs the trick with equally successful results, and before the curtain falls, the true story of Monica's death has been revealed.

"The rehearsal experience has been exhilarating and energizing for me," says Patti Meredith, who plays victim Monica Welles. Meredith, who once worked as a professional actor in Tampa, Fla., now teaches reading and English at Old Towne Middle School in Madison.

"My advice to anyone considering work with community theater is to give it a shot. It's been wonderful."

The Center Players of Madison will perform "Rehearsal for Murder" Sept. 29-Oct. 2 at the Old Madison Station Elementary auditorium, 2109 Main St. in Madison. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. Thurs.-Sat., with a 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinee. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for seniors and students. Thursday, Sept. 29, is student night; all students will be admitted for $5.

In addition, The Center Players are offering free admission to Hurricane Katrina evacuees for the final dress rehearsal on Wednesday, Sept. 28. To make ticket reservations, call 601-605-0417. Tickets and season memberships are also available for purchase on the group's Web site, located at Center Players .


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