Many Hats Theatre Co. actors Isaac Gilbert and Chuck Peeren rehearse for their latest play, Art of Murder which runs April 12 to May 5 at the Cannery Trade Centre. Submitted photo

Penticton theatre troupe delve into a comedy thriller

The Many Hats newest production the Art of Murder will have the audience rolling in the aisles

The Many Hats Theatre Co. newest production, the Art of Murder, will have the audience rolling in the aisles with laughter and on the edge of their seats trying to figure out what’s going to happen next, director Jamie Eberle said.

“It’s a, I would say, a comedy thriller and that can often be mistaken sometimes. It’s sort of dressed up like a thriller except everything is funny, so there is never any thrills.”

Art of Murder by Joe DiPietro is set in the remote countryside of Connecticut where well-known and eccentric painter Jack Brooks (Chuck Peeren) awaits the arrival of his art dealer (Isaac Gilbert). The meeting is not one of ease as Brooks feels wronged and plans to kill the art dealer. Brooks lays out his intentions to his wife Annie (Maria Kadomtseva) as she calmly paints and only concedes to help when threatened. The maid (Elizabeth Barry) makes a brief yet memorable appearance. The plot twists and turns, leaving the audience guessing if Brooks will accomplish his plans with the help of his wife or is something else going on entirely?

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“When we were reading scripts to decide the shows for the year, I found I just couldn’t put it down. I just had to find out what’s happening. ‘Hang on here, dinner can wait. I have to find out what’s going to happen,’” he said with a laugh. “I think it will suck people in and keep them on stage.”

For the first time in Many Hats history, none of the actors are members of the theatre company.

“(It’s) kind of cool because we always like to bring in fresh blood, so to speak, just to keep the gene pool alive. It’s also kind of scary because the Many Hats we’re all kind of predictable. When you cast newcomers, you’re not so sure, but in this case, they are doing exceptionally well.”

Anyone who’s been part of a Many Hats production will most likely know Gilbert, but not for his acting chops.

“He’s sort of been associated with the company for a while but mainly by doing lights. He’s a bit of a wizard with lights,” he said.

Gilbert, along with Kadomtseva (Annie), are members of the Peach Gravy improv group.

“It’s wonderful having them come in with this skill set and wanting to learn more about the stage,” he said.

Eberle said Barry (the maid) was pretty much “cast on the spot” during the open audition.

“It’s not a large part, but there is quite a bit of scope for an actor to dig into it,” he said. “She’s very quick to learn, a very talented young lady.”

Peeren (Jack Brooks), no stranger to the Many Hats stage, played the smarmy boyfriend in last August’s production of Real Estate.

“He’s been in shows before and has great comedic timing,” he said.

Also special in this production will be the sets, which were designed by Dan McCune and Kristine Lee.

“We were lucky enough to line up their services. There’s a part of the set you wouldn’t expect to see in the middle of the stage but those two made it happen. It’s an isolation tank, which the artist gets into. It sort of fills up with lukewarm water and it numbs the senses and vapid music plays when he’s in there, and he allegedly comes out refreshed and rejuvenated. It’s quite a formidable challenge to build such a thing,” he said.

Well-known Penticton artist, Lee, who also happens to be Many Hats’ official scenery painter, has created a series of “Paintings with a Purpose” for this production. While the pieces of work will play the part of Jack Brooks’ creations during the run of Art of Murder, after closing night they will be up for sale. All of the proceeds will be donated the Monday Night Dinners at Nanaimo Square, a project that Lee has spearheaded since its inception.

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The show opens April 12 and runs until May 5 with performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday starting at 8 p.m. and a matinee on Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25 and $22 for seniors and students. For tickets call The Nest & Nectar at the Cannery Trade Centre at 250-493-7275.

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