Up in the ‘Heir’

Everybody hates March.

Shakespeare himself warned us of the Ides – those dastardly days. It’s a dreadful month; chock full of too many hours that straddle that finicky temperate line that mars the month – mild then frigid then mild then frigid again – melting and freezing massive banks of snow into sickly pools of frozen slush, “the color of television tuned to a dead channel”*. At least February has the common decency to exit in 28 days. March just seems so endless.

*That’s a line from William Gibson’s Neuromancer, about a dude who gets lost in The Matrix (well before anyone knew what The Matrix was). It is months like March that make you wish we were all just batteries for the machines.

Last year, I figured out a fool-proof way to take the lion and lamb and put them both out to pasture. I auditioned for a play at the Gateway Players theater in neighboring Southbridge and landed a plum role. Taking on one of the leads, I was the scheming Jon Trachtman in ‘Love, Sex & the IRS‘. With rehearsals twice a week and over 500 lines to learn, that calendar page was plummeting before I knew it. And with the show dates notched for early May, warm Spring weather was in our grasp faster than we ever thought possible.

Simply put, time flies when you’re having fun.

Glancing out my window, I see Mother Nature has decided to celebrate the last day of February 2011 with every weapon in her arsenal. I awoke to a sleet/snow/freezing rain mix that promptly iced up every hard surface in the entire Tri-State area. Following that mid-morning delight, Monsoon Season moved in a little early and a great deal North of its normal habitat – with a great deluge currently showering every last ounce of salt off my car. The forecast for the remains of the day calls for more rain, potential hail and thunderstorms. The jury is still out on whether we’ll get an Ice Firestorm, although I know a few hopeful SyFy execs who are lobbying hard for that turn of events.

The world may be ending outside but I could care less; for last night, I made a bid to repeat that winning formula from last year.

At 6:30 p.m., I heeded the call to Gateway, where director Erin Morin was auditioning actors for roles in her latest production – the murder-mystery comedy, Billy St. John’s Murder’s in the Heir’. And before I turned in for the night, I got the call. I am cast in a dual-role, as both the billionaire wheezy-geezer who gets whacked in the first Act and his much younger grandson. More on that in a moment.

This play looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun. Essentially, it’s Clue – with the audience participating in the grand “game”. The set-up is your standard murder-mystery fare. A billionaire has invited his colorful family members and care staff to hear the reading of his will before he passes on. Complications ensue – providing each character with motive for killing the old man. Once the dirty deed is done, the audience gets to vote on who they think committed the crime – which results in an altered second act. This means the actors have to be on their toes as they really won’t know which way the play is going to end until that second act actually begins.

It should be a fun and challenging experience – and more importantly, a real crowd-pleaser. You are guaranteed to have a good time.

As for me, I couldn’t be more pleased. I read for a few different parts – the playboy nephew, the rumpled detective, the dim-witted handy man, and the stuffy butler. Before we adjourned for the evening, I asked if I could read for the old man – as the script direction states that the same actor who plays the billionaire should also play his grandson – so a youngish dude could pull it off just as well as an elderly chap.It just seemed like a nice challenge – and playing two different roles sounds like a lot of fun – so I figured, what the hell.

Lo and behold – I got the call to play the elder and younger Simons. Now I get to Benjamin Button myself. You know what that means. Brad Pitt and I are practically indistinguishable. I better get used to TMZ dogging my every step.

I can’t wait to get started and while I’m going to keep things spoiler-free aside from the brief synopsis I listed above, you can count on updates as we work to color in this picture.

I’ll have more details once tickets are on sale but wanted to give you all the dates; so that you can pencil in a favored day and time on your calendar.

Murder’s in the Heir’ by Billy St. John
Directed by Erin Morin
Produced by Bill Guy

Fri eve/Sat eve/Sun. matinee – May 13, 14, 15
Fri eve/Sat eve – May 20, 21

Showtimes and ticket info to come.

Hope to see you there. It’s gonna’ be killer!!!

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