LAGUNA WOODS — The Old Pros will be taking its audience back to a 1940s New York apartment where it — the murder of an alluring, prominent socialite — all went down in a recreation of Vera Caspary and George Sklar’s murder mystery “Laura.”
In the play, based on Caspary’s novel released in 1942, detective Mark McPherson, played by John Kelsall, investigates the recent murder of a high-profile advertising executive, Laura Hunt, found in the doorway of her apartment, having suffered a shotgun blast to the face.
McPherson explores the characters of her inner circle, now turned suspect: Laura’s mentor and platonic friend Waldo Lydecker, a charismatic newspaper columnist played by George Zilligen; Shelby Carpenter, Laura’s playboy fiance, played by Jules Zalon; and Danny Dorgan, the building manager’s son who lusts for Laura, played by Artie Rosenstein.
And much like the 75-year-old plot twist featured in the story, director Sheila Bialka spoke of the play’s timeliness and how the clue-bound and illusory elements make there no time like the present to revisit the classic thriller.
“Movies that were made in the ‘40s, including “Laura,” were escape movies,” Bialka said of Otto Preminger’s film noir adaptation and its service as an artful departure from the “temper of the times.”
The film was released in 1944, when World War II was in its last year, soldiers were returning from service and from prisoner of war camps.
“It was great to go to the movies and just spend two hours and not think about what was going on outside,” she added, speaking of its relevance today. “I think that feeling — at least that anxiety and upset — is very similar to what we’re going through now.”
Bialka, who has written and directed plays for the past 55 years, emphasized the stress tied to national strife that becomes omnipresent among a nation’s people.
“People can come, have two hours to themselves and not think about elections or who is in office or who lied to who or any of that nonsense that’s going on now,” Bialka said. “This play is going to do the same sort of service it was originally intended to do. It’s the right time for it.”
The upcoming production will be showing Friday, Nov. 16, Saturday, Nov. 17 and Sunday, Nov. 18 at the Performing Arts Center.
This will be the last show of the year for the Old Pros besides their single-day special “‘Tis the Season” in December. The musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” will be the spring production next year.
There will be no twists or turns from the original, 75-year-old whodunit, because “you can’t fix perfection,” Bialka said.
And for those who haven’t read or seen Caspary’s work — no spoilers, please.
IF YOU GO
When: 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16, 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18
Where: Performing Arts Center
Tickets: $12 to $15, available at the Performing Art Center box office
Note: For Laguna Woods Village residents and their guests only.
Source: Orange County Register