Murder in the air at local playhouses

Trio of mysteries kick off theater season

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‘The Mousetrap'

When: Through Nov. 6, with shows at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 2 p.m. Sundays.

Where: Loves Street Playhouse, 126 Loves Ave., Woodland.

Admission: $10; $8 for seniors and youth.

Telephone: 360-263-6670.

On the Web: http://lovestreetplayhouse.com.

‘A Talent For Murder’

When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 14-15, 20-22 and 27-78; and 2 p.m. Oct. 22 and 29.

Where: Magenta Theater, 606 Main St., Vancouver.

Admission: $12-$15.

Telephone: 360-635-4358.

On the Web: http://magentatheater.com.

‘Deathtrap’

When: Through Nov. 6, with performances at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; and 2 p.m. Sundays.

Where: Slocum House Theatre, 605 Esther St., Vancouver.

Admission: $13; $11 for seniors, and children younger than 12.

Telephone: 360-696-2427.

On the Web: http://www.slocumhouse.com.

Murder! Mischief! Mystery!

Lurid stories ripped from today’s headlines? A kinky new reality show on TV?

No, it’s the beginning of the theatre season for three of Clark County’s most established groups.

From Slocum House Theatre comes “Deathtrap,” in which a down-and-out playwright is looking for his next story and discovers that his student has developed the perfect play. Deceits abound as the tale twists and turns to a thriller of an ending. Written by the author of Rosemary’s Baby, look for it to weave the story in and out, plots inside of plots.

“The Mousetrap,” put on by Loves Street Playhouse, brings Agatha Christie’s famous whodunit to Woodland. In it, a snowbound group of travelers are trapped in a guesthouse — with a murderer as an uninvited guest. Suspicion deepens as they each suspect one another, with Christie’s traditional twist ending. By far, the most famous of the classical mystery writers. It is rumored this play has never left the stage in England since it was presented in the early 1950s.

And in Magenta Theater’s “A Talent For Murder,” relatives of an internationally successful mystery novelist want to get their hands on her art collection, by any devious means necessary. The comic banter between the characters provides some relief from the mayhem.

Mystery and comedy have always been a potent mixture of entertainment. Just look at the success of “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

When chatting with leaders at these three companies — Rebecca Kramer, vice president of Slocum House; Melinda Leuthold, artistic director of Loves Street Playhouse; and Jaynie Roberts, artistic director of Magenta Theater — similar messages in their missions emerge. All three of these companies have very active and successful classes with youth, especially during the summertime. As Leuthold put it, “It’s fun to watch the progression and growth of these young actors.”

And they all tend to favor the comedy and mystery genres.

“Times are hard right now for everyone so we want people to walk in, relax and laugh,” Kramer said.

That being said, both Roberts and Kramer echoed the need to offer “edgier,” more adult-oriented shows, and more classics. They have both tried these in the past with favorable results.

Leuthold prefers to keep her productions family friendly. She wants her audiences to “… not feel uncomfortable or potentially offended” by their offerings, she said.

All three agreed that doing musicals was probably not on their agenda because of their limited performing space and the high cost of royalties.

They have all dipped their oars in the uncertain waters of improv comedy and found the audiences asking for more. And both Loves Street and Magenta have tried a type of dinner theatre with some productions and came away with favorable responses. Expansions for some of them have also included touring a show, creating a band, and renting out their spaces for community events.

At only a few years old, Loves Street is the youngest of the troupes, but has a loving community in Woodland supporting it. Magenta is the next oldest at 10 years. It occupies the space of the old Arts Equity Theatre on Main St. It’s “… pretty amazing seeing as we started off with a handful of teenage actors … performing in the tiniest of church sanctuaries, with no money and no backers,” Roberts said.

And the eldest of the companies is Slocum House at about 45 years, now located in Esther Short Park.