Local playwright puts comic zaniness into Oakmont ‘Murder’
Upper Burrell playwright Marilyn McNally says she never has considered penning a serious dramatic production.
“No, life is serious enough,” she says. “I live for the laughter.”
She is likely to have no problem eliciting that in the script she has penned for the Oakmont Elks Players’ latest comedy murder-mystery, “Murder at the Silver Saddle Saloon.”
The dinner-theater experience, which benefits Elks charities, is being presented Friday and Saturday, and Nov. 20 at the Elks Lodge.
“I have been wanting to do a Western for some time now, and it finally came together. Having lived in a small town in Oregon for some of my teen years, I love the old-west style of life,” she says. “The characters in this play are typical of what comes out of my head. They are outrageous and off the wall. My imagination still runs wild, and I hope it never stops. I am amazed at the enthusiasm of the players who are willing to take this ride with me.”
A third day has been added to the showing because of the enthusiastic response to the last production. Guests are invited to dress in western wear and hats and bring their cameras for photos with the characters during the break.
The production, set in a barroom in the early wild west, is aimed at adults. The humor is “clean,” McNally assures.
The audience will meet characters such as Frilly Chintz, the saloon owner with a big secret; crooked as a tree branch banker, Iman M. Bezzler; Flashy, untrustworthy gold miner, Tex Leathers (“You won’t believe where his gold mine is located,” says McNally); bar tender Crazy Hank, who is hiding something and is about to be found out; and Bedroll Charlie, the singing cowboy who can’t seem to stay awake.
“The play is so funny that, the first few times I read my lines, I couldn’t get through them from laughing so much,” says Kathleen Sayers of Verona, who portrays the sassy Frilly Chintz.
“When I tell everyone that this play is written locally and by one of the Elks members, they are surprised that we have such a talent in Marilyn McNally,” she says. “Not only does she write the words, but she is a visionary to see how each part should be played.”
Raising money for the Elk’s charities is a great inspiration, McNally says. “Hearing people laugh at what I’ve written is just icing on the cake for me,” she says.
Cast member Harry Schlegel of Plum is confident the audience will laugh “for 90 minutes.”
“The cast is zany. We have no fear of making fools of ourselves and laying it all on the line. We are willing to embarrass ourselves to help others,” he says. “Marilyn McNally is very talented and has one very warped sense of humor,” he quips.
Schlegel plays a gay gold miner and says he is preparing by watching “Project Runway” and “What Not to Wear” on television.
In his role as the banker, Paul Hluben of Shaler says he is trying to portray that, “I am having a heck of a lot of fun doing this.” He is, he adds, “an embezzler, sort-of-over-the-hill womanizer” and a generally “crooked, sleazy character.”
Bud Perrone of Verona is an undertaker named Paul Bearer and an Indian chief, Chief Tail Feathers. He says the evening will bring, “good food, good entertainment, lots of laughs.”
McNally also praises his work behind the scenes. “Thanks to Bud’s skills and generosity, we have a great set. All I have to do is mention an idea and the next week Bud has it done,” she says. Perrone has built a chuck wagon, bar, coffin and swinging bar doors at the entrance of the stage.
“Our sound man Doug Fletcher (of Oakmont) has put together a score of music that enhances everyone’s entrances, and additional music for some of the scenes that really heighten the moment,” adds Sayers.
The audience will want to watch those moments closely because they will have the opportunity to compete for prizes in guessing who committed the crime. “I think there are a lot of people who enjoy being the detective and solving the mystery,” says Bill Dodd of Verona, who plays U.S. Marshall Coyote West.
“I think it’s human nature to want a challenge, or perhaps it’s our ego to try to see through a situation and solve a crime,” Richard Hannus of Oakmont says. He is “Crazy Hank,” the bartender with a history.
“It’s fun to escape reality and live in a world of make-believe,” he says. “What a way to relax.”
Carol Mimm of Oakmont, who portrays the self-righteous Temperance Cross, suggests this is not a typical mystery because of the comedy.
“I think that anyone who comes to see this will be back to see another,” she predicts. “Our crowds keep getting larger.”
‘Murder at the Silver Saddle Saloon’
Who: Oakmont Elks Players
When: 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 7 p.m. Nov. 20
Where: Elks Lodge, 106 Washington Ave., Oakmont
Admission: Reservations necessary: $20, includes dinner