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“I keep losing track of what crime we’re committing,” gasps Lois Shields, an exasperated book editor in “Cahoots,” the comedy thriller now playing at Eastpointe’s Broadway Onstage Live Theatre. And she’s not the only one, thanks to a lively and imaginative script by Rick Johnson.
Arriving at the home of Jan (her best friend) and Ken Miller, Lois expects to have a nice dinner (along with her husband, Al) before the foursome attends a block association meeting to discuss crime prevention techniques. (Al’s brother had been murdered 11 months earlier, and he’s developed a “crime busters” presentation for their neighbors.) Little did she know, however, that before the night is over, bodies will drop like flies – literally – and the cover-ups will test the limits of their friendships.
The adventure begins when a decade-long secret is revealed, and the long-simmering revelation erupts into a heated encounter that ends at the dinner table with Ken smacking Al in the head with a three-foot-long peppermill. That sends him flying backward into a trunk, against which he hits his head. Bleeding profusely and totally still, the remaining diners believe he’s dead – and the cover-up begins. Before long, however, additional secrets come tumbling out – and those in cahoots find themselves in one heck of a complicated mess.
It’s a funny, but complicated mess, of course, as the surviving threesome faces one improbable and unexpected twist after another. But if there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s this: Money and murder do indeed make strange bedfellows!
Attending a production at the storefront Broadway Onstage is like traveling to a friend’s house and watching a play in their rec room. Guests are warmly greeted upon their arrival, and fellow patrons nod their heads or say hello as you find your way to your seat. Meanwhile, others wander about making small talk with one another. Around you, the theater is decorated with props and memorabilia from previous shows, and TV screens above the stage play old time comedy shorts before the performance and during intermission. And after the show, the cast – most of whom are usually familiar faces to Broadway Onstage regulars – steps off the stage and mingles with the audience. You can’t feel more at home than this!
That comfort is helped along by director Shirley Biggs-Urkshus, who brought together a delightful team of actors to bring Johnson’s characters to life. Audience favorites CeCe Lesner plays Jan, while John Arden McClure is Grant, a character who makes his entrance in Act Two and shakes up the plot. They are joined by Joe Urkshus as Ken, Patrick Sharpe as Al, and Diana Turner, a newcomer to Broadway Onstage, as Lois.
The opening night performance moved along at a brisk pace and the laughs were well earned – except for the times the actors stumbled over or forgot their lines. (This was duly noted rather loudly by a woman sitting in the first row, who generated a few laughs of her own from the people sitting around her). When they clicked, they clicked – but such pauses momentarily disrupted the flow of the story (and to be honest, I got confused a few times by what seemed like incorrect references to certain characters). But with another performance or two under their belts, the result should be a slick and thoroughly entertaining night of murder and mayhem in Eastpointe!
Broadway Onstage, 21517 Kelly Road, Eastpointe. Friday-Saturday through Feb. 11. $16. 586-771-6333. http://www.broadwayonstage.com