GLEN RIDGE, NJ — For its fall play, Glen Ridge High School’s drama club is staging a murder mystery at the Glen Ridge Women’s Club. “Talk About a Murder!” is set on a talk show where various performers are slated to be guests. In the middle of the show, one of the guests is murdered, and the others are tasked with identifying the culprit.
“It’s more of a spoof of a murder mystery than a true murder mystery,” co-director and drama club adviser Angelo DeFazio said in a phone interview with The Glen Ridge Paper on Dec. 13. “It’s funny and silly.”
Junior Marley Roache, who is playing Celeste Ethereal, a new-age psychic, said the play is different from previous GRHS productions.
“It’s wackier than what I’m used to,” she said on Dec. 12. “It’s not the most emotional play. It’s a silly, fun play with silly, fun characters. If this is the first performance you’re going to in a while, it’s a good one.”
GRHS managed to put on the musical “Footloose” in the spring. But the fall play last year was canceled because of the pandemic, as was the 2020 musical. Since then, “Talk About a Murder!” is the school’s first production that resembles a regular show, though there will still be COVID safety protocols.
“I’ve been waiting a long time to do this,” senior Freddie Ramirez, who plays talk show co-host Nickie Rivers, said on Dec. 12. Ramirez has been a part of all of the GRHS theater productions for the last four years and has missed being in front of an audience the way she will be when the show opens Dec. 16. “I really want to make it worthwhile for people to come out of their houses and watch a live performance.”
There are 11 cast members; all are onstage for most of the show. There isn’t a lot of backstage time or breaks for them to catch their breath and gauge how the show is going. DeFazio said it’s been one of the main focuses in rehearsal.
“Most of them are onstage the whole time,” he said. “So we’ve been encouraging them to always be reacting with gasps and points, things like that. They’re on the whole time.”
Sophomore Julian Novoa, playing failed Las Vegas lounge singer Shecky Scagnetti, said that’s the beauty of the show.
“The fun of this show comes from the exaggeration,” he said on Dec. 12. “The more over the top, the better.”
According to DeFazio, about 95 percent of the show is scripted. But the other 5 percent is flexible, and the cast will be doing some improvisation work. There’s also audience interaction; Ramirez said the crowd will be able to participate in solving the murder.
“There are lines that can be changed based on who’s in the audience,” senior Mollyjane Boyle said Dec. 12. “We’re getting good at improv, because you have to be ready for anything.”
Boyle is playing Phoebe St. Self, an anti-feminist who is not afraid to force her views on anyone who will listen. For Boyle, getting back into the swing of having an audience is a welcome change.
“It’s completely different with an audience, especially with a show like this,” she said.
This is why there have been test audiences at rehearsals. DeFazio and co-director Christina Alamo, in addition to other people floating through, have been posing as playgoers to get the cast accustomed to coming up with lines on the spot.
“We’ve been prepping with guests at rehearsal and asking questions as audience members ourselves,” DeFazio said. “That’s new for us, using improv as a skill instead of as a game. They’ll thrive off of the audience, because they haven’t had it in a while.”
“Talk About a Murder!” will be staged three times. There might be some overlap in the audience, but it will likely be a different crowd every night. That means the show will be different every night.
“We have to be ready for anything,” sophomore Ava Handler, who plays gossip columnist Polly Pettegolo, said Dec. 12. “It could go one way, and then completely different the next time.”
“Talk About a Murder!” will run from Dec. 16 to 18 at 7:30 p.m. at 219 Ridgewood Ave. Tickets can be purchased at the door or at www.dramaclub.ticketleap.com/murder.
“It’ll be really happy kids in a really happy show,” DeFazio said.
Photos Courtesy of Maria Marchione-Novoa