By Dennis Hackett
WESTFIELD- The Westfield Theatre group opens up its season with “Murder Among Friends,” a murder-mystery comedy beginning Oct. 18.
Carol Palmer, one of the producers on the show, said the Westfield Theatre Group is a division of the Westfield Woman’s Club and typically hosts three shows per year, with the occasional one-act festival. She explained the group has been using the building since the 1930s when they began started doing script reads.
The play, originally by Bob Barry, “was meant to be a fun night out, it’s a very lively, dark, murder-mystery comedy, which packs a lot of entertainment into two hours,” said Dennis Akins, Palmer’s co-producer on the show. Palmer and Akins explained the show is full of dark comedy and twists and turns along the way.
Palmer said that while this play isn’t original to the theater group, she did say that they do put on their own original versions of plays as well, including the group’s upcoming take on the Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol” this December. She explained that in these cases they will take certain stories but write and add their own music to them.
For the fall show, Akins said they had to cut down the more than 20 actors that auditioned to just six. In comparison, Palmer said they have 46 actors cut down from at least 60 auditions for the upcoming holiday show. Akins added that the show has been rehearsing for eight weeks prior to its opening this weekend.
Akins and Palmer said that the show contains some adult language and the use of gunshots, but that the language is used for humor rather than aggression throughout. They did say that young adults should be able to handle it as well with parental guidance.
“My 11-year-old granddaughter is coming, she’s been to see things like ‘Book of Mormo’n so this is mild compared to that,” Palmer said.
Palmer explained that “Murder Among Friends” is her first show as a producer, which led to her asking Akins to help her with production. “It’s been an experience!” they both exclaimed when talking about their partnership for the play.
Akins explained that proceeds from the show goes directly back into either the theater group or into its annual donation to the Woman’s Club.
Palmer and Akins said the Woman’s Club is always bustling with activity, especially now with two shows rehearsing at the same time and other different activities organized by the Woman’s Club.
“The building is a lot of fun right now. We have the murder-mystery comedy upstairs while the holiday show is rehearsing downstairs so we have a combination of gunfire and Christmas music,” Palmer said.
“I have to say the Westfield Theatre Group uses it more than anybody else does,” Palmer added.
Akins and Palmer are also both members of the theater group’s board, and while this is Akins’ first year, Palmer said she has been a member for 33 years.
“We have a large board and most of those people are performers who just love theater so much that they’re willing to do the arduous work that it takes,” Akins said.
Tickets can be purchased at the door the day of the show or online at westfieldtheatregroup.com. General admission is $18 while the cost for students, seniors and military is $15.
Performances are Oct. 18-19 and 25-26 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 26 at 2 p.m.