There are only five cast members in Eau Claire Children’s Theatre’s latest production, but they will be playing 18 characters on The Oxford’s stage this weekend.
The cast members not only have a role, but each of the characters plays several others. It’s complicated — even for seasoned actors such as Jeanne Kussrow-Larson, who has been in countless shows over the last 25 years.
“I’ve never done a show like this, playing a character within a character, and for me the challenge is playing all the different characters,” Kussrow-Larson said. “I’m not sure how I’m doing, really, but so far nobody’s said anything about my performance.”
Kussrow-Larson is among four others who will perform “The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswoman’s Guild Dramatic Society Murder Mystery” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday, June 17, at The Oxford, 1814 Oxford Ave.
The show follows a women’s theater guild that is preparing for a production of a murder mystery where each takes on several characters — but it’s not going very well. Everything that can go wrong seems to, which makes the show all the funnier, if you ask actress Ann Pearson.
“What I really enjoy about this show is that it’s so slapstick, physical kind of humor, and it’s just over-the-top ridiculous,” Pearson said. “If people like ‘Monty Python,’ they would like this.”
Director Wayne Marek said the show is “most enjoyed by audiences middle school age and up,” as it has a G rating but he doesn’t think young children would be able to follow along as well with the humor and farce.
Fortunately, in ECCT’s production, things seem to be running smoothly for the most part. Creating coordinated chaos does pose its challenges though.
When learning lines, Pearson said actors typically work off one another to help remind them of their place in the script. That doesn’t work so well in the Farndale Avenue comedy.
“A lot of the lines are supposed to come out of order, so you can’t rely on that either,” Pearson said.
Dan Ekblad, who plays the only male in the show, said it has been an enjoyable production to be a part of, especially because many of the cast members have worked together on murder mysteries before.
He’s also enjoyed overcoming the challenges this show poses but said the final one will be portraying the show in a way that gets the audience to play along.
“We have to do a good enough job portraying that, to get the audience to the point where they go ‘oh, this is a theater company putting on this show, and it’s going wrong,’” Ekblad said. “It’s a lot of fun trying to do that because we have a lot of things that go wrong. It won’t take long for the audience to figure it out.”
To help them out, Ekblad said they will be giving out little hints by interacting with the audience both before the show as well as during intermission.
He couldn’t say much more than that, but actress Terri Johnson said the audience should be prepared for a good time.
“Anybody who loves to laugh will enjoy this show,” she said.
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