For the past two months, The Upstage Left Theater Company has been rehearsing its most recent production, Exit the Body. This piece, written by comedic playwright Fred Carmichael, is a farcical account of a vacationing novelist, her secretary, her husband, and the many colorful characters that weave in and out of an isolated cottage in a small village in Vermont.
The entire action of the play occurs over the course of one day. In the opening scenes, mystery writer and New York native Crane Hammond, played by Daina Schatz ’03, arrives with her cynical secretary Kate Bixley, portrayed by Molly Hoyne ’03. While settling into the cottage, the characters learn a little about the house’s history and they hear rumors of the prior tenant’s career as a crook. Though this man is dead, the diamonds from his last big heist are still missing. As a writer of mystery novels such as Blood is for Children and Cops and Corpse, Crane takes an interest in these rumors.
However, the ensuing hunt for the missing diamonds is not limited to Crane and Kate. Everyone from the maid, Jenny (Kate Bossart ’04), to a slew of law enforcement officers who scour the home in the early morning hours in the hopes that they’ll find the hidden riches. Unfortunately for all involved, each of the characters has planned to search for the diamonds at the same time. As a result, crooks are chasing cops and cops chasing seemingly innocent natives of Vermont.
The final scenes are a hodge-podge of physical comedy and unexpected plot twists. It is only after the house is practically ransacked that the diamonds show up in the most unlikely of places. Truly, for Crane Hammond, this is one mystery even she couldn’t have concocted.
When asked about the play’s intrinsic literary value, director Johnny Merrill (’02) stated, “This [play] is sheer, bona fide, unadulterated entertainment.” Though Merrill has appeared in numerous shows (including past shows with Upstage Left) this piece marks his directorial debut. Commenting on the experience, he stated, “It was a joy working with such a talented cast.”
Similarly, Hoyne commented on what she considers to be the high points of the show. “My favorite part of the show is that I get to act drunk and run around in my pajamas,” she said. “I’m the best drunken secretary you’ve ever seen!”
Indeed, there are several scenes where there is at least one drunken character on stage. When booze is added to an already strained situation, the results are explosive and very often funny.
From a severe case of amnesia to an absurd yankee sheriff, Exit the Body is peppered with clever lines and some fairly extreme physical comedy. Though the show has a running time of just over two hours, the action moves swiftly. Perhaps the show can only be categorized by its current cast. In the opinion of Schatz, “This play is about laughter, pure laughter … it is hysterical.”
The show opened last night and runs through Saturday in Risley Theater. Located in Risley Hall, Risley Theater can only seat 81 persons per show. Tickets are five dollars each and can be purchased at the door. The curtain rises promptly at 8:00.
Archived article by Nate Brown