An old theatre. A sold-out show. A murder-mystery driving towards its climactic conclusion…

…And actor Scottie Grinton’s fly is down.

This detail, which does not go unnoticed by the audience, became one of the highlights of the evening.

“Honey!” Grinton exclaims mid-monologue to his on-stage wife. “Why didn’t you tell me my fly was down?” He then turns around and hikes his zipper back up with a dramatic flair, and the the audience erupts into laughter.

Though Grinton’s wardrobe malfunction was not written into the script, one thing is for certain: it warranted an immediate reaction from the audience. Most murder mysteries are quite serious, but Morpheus Theatre’s production of A Little Murder Never Hurt Anybody is a laugh-out-loud comedy featuring a cast of hilarious members from the community.

First published in 2009 and written by playwright Ron Bernas, A Little Murder Never Hurt Anybody is a homage to general mysteries and comedies of the 1930s.

The play follows the life of the Perry family. Married couple Matthew and Julia are bored with their lives and as a result, Matthew vows to murder Julia within the coming year. In retaliation, Julia makes it her New Year’s resolution to evade murder until her daughter’s wedding in the following January. What follows is a year of chaos as everyone in the Perry household begins to die – except Julia.

“These are people who go to the tennis courts not to play tennis, but to ruin lives,” Grinton says of the fictional family.

Grinton’s interest in theatre dates back to his high school days in Toronto, ON. He was on the football team, but would often sneak out to view theatrical productions on his own because his teammates “thought theatre was for gay people.”

Though Grinton has been acting for 12 years, this is his first production working alongside Leanne Melathopolous, who played his on-stage wife.

“It was a little intimidating at first,” admits Grinton. “She’s like, awesome.”

Melathopolous caught the acting bug in the 11th grade and hasn’t looked back since. Now teaching drama at Forest Lawn High School, she is able to utilize her experience to bring the character of Julia Perry to life.

“It’s really hard, because I know I’m not Julia,” explains Melathopolous. “I don’t think like a privileged, wealthy woman who is in a long-term marriage being rich and bored. Preparing the subtext of what I am thinking in this moment, even when I am not speaking, is super important.”

But Melathopolous isn’t the only cast member who had to undergo extensive preparation to master her character.

Christopher Ford, who plays Detective Plotnick – a Sam Spade-type who suspects everyone of murder but doesn’t really have a clue – also put a lot of time into the production.

“I read a bunch of Dashiell Hammett novels, and a bunch of Men in the High Window, and all these old-timey detective novels to try to really get the archetype,” recalls Ford. “I’m kind of embarrassed, because I did a lot of research for this.”

Overall, it is the combination of both the cast and crew that make A Little Murder Never Hurt Anybody into the performance that it is. Director of the production, Dan Gibbins, describes working with this dynamic group as “a joy.”

“My cast is funny enough that in the last two weeks of rehearsal I began to get concerned I was going to run out of things to tell them to do,” he says.

However, while the play is packed with witty banter and hilarious bits, Gibbins is hopeful that audience members will take away more than just chuckles when the curtain is drawn; underneath the amusing surface, there is a deeper meaning to be uncovered.

“Sometimes when chasing after what we think we want, we find that what we’ve always really wanted is something else.”

In other words, don’t let these characters fool you; underneath their devious motives could lie an important life lesson.

A Little Murder Never Hurt Anybody will be playing at the Pumphouse Theatre until February 10, 2018.

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Editor: Omar Subhi Omar | oomar@cjournal.ca