Whodunit? Reston Community Players Offers a Heady Mix of Backstage Suspects in Thrilling ‘Rehearsal for Murder’ Playing January 16-31, 2015

Reston Community Players opens the thrilling whodunit Rehearsal for Murder This Friday, January 16th. Audiences are invited to test their wits as they enter a world of backstage drama where nothing is as it appears – or is it?

Christine Carter (Karen Daniels), Kathy Ohlhaber (Monica Welles), and Wilson Paine (Leo Gibbs). Photo by Traci J Brooks Studios
Christine Carter (Karen Daniels), Kathy Ohlhaber (Monica Welles), and Wilson Paine (Leo Gibbs). Photo by Traci J Brooks Studios

Rehearsal for Murder is the story of Alex Dennison, a successful playwright who, one year earlier, lost his fiancé, Monica Wells, a movie-star turned Broadway leading lady, in what police ruled as a suicide.  Convinced it was actually murder, Dennison invites five acquaintances from the original production to read scenes from his new play.  These scenes reveal surprising connections to the original death.  “Whodunit?” asked producer Jay Stein. “You’ll have to come see the show to find out.  I can almost guarantee that whatever your theory is, it will be wrong.”

Was Monica Wells’ death a suicide or murder? We asked the actors to tell us, in character, why they couldn’t possibly be the guilty party in Rehearsal for Murder. Warning: there may be red herrings thrown into their answers, as nothing and nobody in Rehearsal for Murder is quite what it appears.

Was it the producer?

Joan Susan Zeigler plays prominent Broadway producer Bella Lamb. “As Bella, a prominent Broadway Producer, my life does not permit me the time to kill anyone,” she said. “My schedule is a non-stop continuation of business and cocktail parties, luncheons, meeting with backers, famous playwrights, actors, rehearsals, reading plays, being at rehearsals, office work, and occasionally sleeping. Who has time to even contemplate killing someone? I HATE guns, they make me tremble.  Besides my husband would kill me if I ever killed anyone!!!!!!!!!!”

Was it the director?

Jay Stein plays Lloyd Andrews, the nervous director of Alex Dennison’s last play, Chamber Music, and one of five people Alex invites to read scenes from his new play as part of the events in Rehearsal for Murder.  “I was heartbroken to learn of Monica’s death,” he said. “Though she’d been a movie star for years, Chamber Music was her on-stage debut, and in that respect she was inexperienced.  I wanted her to succeed and made it my business to help her be as big a star on stage as she had been on screen.  I’ve heard mumblings that some people think I might have been responsible.  How outrageous.  What possible reason would I have to kill the star of my own production?”

Wayne Jacques (Frank Heller); Christine Carter (Karen Daniels); Joan Susan Zeigler (Bella Lamb); Wilson Paine (Leo Gibbs); Kevin Walker (David Mathews); and Ian Brown (Alex Dennison). Photo by Traci J Brooks Studios.
Wayne Jacques (Frank Heller), Christine Carter (Karen Daniels), Joan Susan Zeigler (Bella Lamb), Wilson Paine (Leo Gibbs), Kevin Walker (David Mathews), and Ian Brown (Alex Dennison). Photo by Traci J Brooks Studios.

Was it someone backstage?

Christine Carter plays scheming actress Karen Daniels. “Me? Murder Monica Welles?” she protested. “Look, I know it SEEMS shady with me being the understudy and all, but I would never kill Monica! She and I were friends, and besides that, the producer would never open a show with an understudy. Anyway, I’m no longer the sweet little ingenue that I was a year ago. I’ve got big things happening! It’s a tragedy, yes, but I’ve moved on and so should everyone else. Things change.”

Steve Palkovitz plays furniture mover Bruce Santoro. “No way I could have killed Monica because I never met her before and I have no motivation,” he said. “But I am big and strong (I am a furniture mover, after all!), so I am certainly capable of throwing her out the window. And these actors and actresses are so high and mighty, they’ve never worked a day in their life, like I have. Sweating and lifting furniture all damn day for very little money. And the union boss is a damn crook! Don’t get me started! Rich college kid: wouldn’t have gotten the job if his daddy wasn’t in charge. Anyhow, no, I didn’t kill her.”

“Crime? What crime? SOMEONE WAS MURDERED?!?!?” asked Wilson Paine, in the guise of his character, Leo Gibbs.

What do the investigating officers think?

Meg Miller plays one of the police investigating the mysterious death. “I couldn’t possibly have murdered Monica Welles,” she argued. “I was on the scene to investigate the suicide of said deceased. That’s what I filed in my report, that’s what I made my partner (the rookie) put in his report, in addition to the ton of paperwork I had to provide on the case. No evidence collected at the scene points to a “murder” in my book. What are you getting at? Who are you? What’s your interest in this case? Do you think there was a mishandling of the case? Are you from I.A.? Does this have anything to do with my retirement or my pension? I’m going to need your information right now: name, address, phone numbers, where do you work, and so on. Perhaps you should come with me to the station…”

Matthew Wise plays another police officer investigating the mysterious death. “As one of the officers working the case I can’t divulge information connected to the investigation,” he said. “Don’t want my partner riding me about this later. She’s all about policy and protocol. Still holding out for that desk job, I suspect, but until she gets it I’m stuck with her.”

Or was it the playwright himself?

Ian Brown plays Alex Dennison, the playwright of Chamber Music and Monica Wells’ fiancée. “There is absolutely no chance that I killed Monica Welles,” said Brown. “This woman was the love of my life, our future together was looking so bright! I have never loved anyone the way I loved her. Heck, I’m the one trying to prove to the police that she didn’t commit suicide – that she was murdered! Why would I do that if I was the one who killed her?”

 Matthew Wise (Policeman) and Ian Brown (Alex Dennison). Photo by Traci J Brooks Studios.
Matthew Wise (Policeman) and Ian Brown (Alex Dennison). Photo by Traci J Brooks Studios.

Rehearsal for Murder is directed by Jessie Roberts. Producers are Jocelyn Steiner and Jay Stein. The cast includes Ian Brown (Alex Dennison), Kathy Ohlhaber (Monica Wells), Kevin Walker (David Matthews), Jay Stein (Lloyd Andrew), Joan Zeigler (Bella Lamb), Wilson Paine (Leo Gibbs), Christine Carter (Karen Daniels), Heather Miska (Sally Bean), Steven Palkovitz (Mr. Santoro), Matthew Wise (Policeman), Wayne Jacques (Frank Heller), Meg Miller (Policewoman), Carol Watson (Loretta), and Matt Cederholm (Ernie/Lt. McElroy).

D.D. Brooke’s Rehearsal for Murder is based upon the teleplay by Richard Levinson and William Link for the 1982 film featuring Robert Preston and Lynn Redgrave.

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Rehearsal for Murder plays January 16-31, 2015 at CenterStage at the Reston Community Center – 2310 Colts Neck Road, Reston, VA. CenterStage is handicap accessible and offers listening devices for the hearing impaired. For tickets, call the Box Office at 703-476-4500 x 3, or purchase them online. All performances are at 8:00 p.m. with the exception of a 2:00 p.m. matinee on January 25th.

CenterStage is handicap accessible and offers listening devices for the hearing impaired

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Diane Jackson Schnoor
Diane Jackson Schnoor is delighted to be back in the DC metro area after nearly two decades away. She earned her BA at The American University, with a minor in theatre arts, and holds a master's and doctorate in elementary education from the University of Virginia. A lifelong devotee of the arts, Diane's reviews and arts feature stories have been published in The Millbrook Independent and DC Metro Theatre Arts. As an actress, Diane has performed with the Cape Fear Regional Theatre, the Fort Bragg Playhouse, TriArts Sharon Playhouse, and in musicals and dance shows in Millbrook, NY, Amenia, NY, and Lakeville, CT. Her day job career has run the gamut from adjunct college faculty to preschool director to public relations director and back again, but her primary occupation these days is as chauffeur to the two young actresses who inhabit her home in Winchester, VA.