Theatre Tillsonburg's final production of the 2014-15 season opens Thursday at the Otter Valley Playhouse.
Ding Dong Dead is a drama, said director Melanie Watts, more than murder mystery. The plot of the play revolves around a rich woman, Monique, who has married a gambling drunk, Rudy. The drunkard is taking all of her money... until she decides it's time to leave.
"That doesn't really give away anything," Watts smiled.
Written by Mawby Green and Ed Feilbert in 1988, and published by Samuel French Inc., the modern-day play is "very cleverly written," said Watts.
"The twists and turns really keep you thinking... right up until the surprise ending. I would say it's going to appeal to anyone who enjoys a good suspenseful movie or book, they would enjoy the play."
It is not a whodunnit, she stressed. One character dies and the audience sees it.
"It's more drama, suspense."
There are seven actors in the cast – Louise (Stacy Riley), Monique (Colleen Marlin), Rudy (Jason Leighfield), Corbeau (Gordon Walker), Michel (Jason Leighfield), Inspector Murzeau (Shane Steward), and two policemen (Larry Winter and Harry VandenBiggelaar), ranging in age from late-20s to 60, including three newcomers to the Theatre Tillsonburg stage.
"Three are brand new to our stage, which is great to see. It's always nice to have new blood."
Set in the Chevreuse Valley, France, the play takes place in a high-end chateau, and the decor, right down to the bottles of Hpnotiq, Bastille whiskey and Perrier water, reflects that.
"Our decor people have been hard at work finding furniture and decorating to make sure things looke as elegant as they should."
Show times for Ding Dong Dead are April 30, May 1 and May 2, all at 8 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, May 3. The pattern repeats the following week with 8 p.m. shows May 7-9, and closing Sunday, May 10 at 2 p.m. The theatre box office number is 519-688-3026.
Watts, quite confident they were ready for Thursday's opening night, was about to watch Monday's dress rehearsal.
"The challenge is definitely in the pacing. It's not like the last one where it was the physicality. It's definitely in the characterization and the pacing. A couple of our actors are playing multiple characters – it's part of the play, which in itself is a huge challenge to remember who you are supposed to be."
What makes it fun to direct, said Watts, is having an amazing team to work with.
"Everybody really pulled together, dedicated long hours to rehearsals, as well as long hours to set building and decorating. We had a shorter time frame for this show than normal, so it was great to see how the entire team just worked together and focused on what needed to be done."
Ding Dong Dead follows the comedy Who's Under Where? which was a considerable success.
"It did really, really well," said Watts. "The audiences loved it, the actors loved it. It was fantastic."
While it's sometimes considered a challenge selling out dramas, Watts said dramas appeal to people who want something different from a typical farce/comedy.
"Right now we've got our plays set for next season, and we have to pick out our plays for the 2016-17 season. Every once in a while we like to do dramas because we have people who like to direct something other than comedies. Everybody likes something different. Even our audiences tell us on occasion that they get tired of seeing the same farce. Because a farce essentially has the same plotline, just different story."
Musicals are rare, but there is one planned in May 2016.
"Sandra Andrews has written a musical set during World War One, as part of the (Oxford Remembers) 100 events for World War One, using music from the war."