ETC HAS FUN WITH MUR­DER AND MAY­HEM

Elmira Theatre Com­pany of­fers up a comedic take on fam­ily and greed in a pro­duc­tion of Mur­der Most Fouled-Up

The Woolwich Observer - - FRONT PAGE - FAISAL ALI

THEY SAY THAT MONEY cor­rupts – but they also say blood is thicker than wa­ter. And when the lav­ishly wealthy Ed­win Ran­dolph passes away to leave the Ru­dolph fam­ily in­her­i­tance up for grabs, the fa­mil­iar wis­dom gets put to the test in this Elmira Theatre Com­pany pro­duc­tion of Nikki Har­mon’s Mur­der Most Fouled-Up.

One part farce, one part mur­der mys­tery, and with a dash of the su­per­nat­u­ral and the mun­dane, Mur­der Most Fouled-Up sees the eclec­tic Ru­dolph fam­ily, ac­com­pa­nied by the fam­ily lawyer and ex­ecu­tor of the late-Ru­dolph’s es­tate, Sey­mour Mead, try­ing to get their hands on the mys­te­ri­ous $20-mil­lion in­her­i­tance hid­den some­where in the fam­ily man­sion.

Along for the ride, and lend­ing a su­per­nat­u­ral if ques­tion­ably help­ful hand, are the de­ceased mem­bers of the Ran­dolph clan, who de­spite be­ing dead seem not at all perturbed at be­ing mur­dered by one an­other for the elu­sive fam­ily in­her­i­tance. (“All I did, dear, was mur­der you for the in­her­i­tance. It was noth­ing per­sonal,” quips one im­pa­tient ghost to an­other.)

It’s a story with a lot of mov­ing parts, says vet­eran ETC di­rec­tor Rita Huschka, in­clud­ing a re­volv­ing cast of quirky char­ac­ters and fam­ily drama. But at its heart, it’s a sim­ple and re­lat­able story about fa­mil­ial re­la­tion­ships.

“The story is not that com­pli­cated,” notes Huschka, who re­turns to the di­rec­tor’s chair af­ter pre­vi­ous ETC out­ings like the Norm Fos­ter caper On a First Name Busi­ness, pro­duced ear­lier this year. “The story is more about a fam­ily that kills each other off for the in­her­i­tance ev­ery 20 years when some­one dies. I don’t know why, but they all tend to want to kill each other off be­cause they all want money. And it’s a lot of money.”

Mur­der has prac­ti­cally be­come a tra­di­tion for the Ru­dolphs, as each gen­er­a­tion is tempted by the ex­tra­or­di­nary wealth of the fam­ily es­tate. But will the cy­cle of mur­der and may­hem re­peat it­self again? Or will their bet­ter senses pre­vail?

“The heirs kill each other hop­ing to get more of the money. And then they all end up dead and no­body gets any­thing and it all starts all over again when the next one dies,” she says. “It’s about mur­der and may­hem, and how mur­der doesn’t pay.”

The story opens shortly af­ter the death of the fam­ily pa­tri­arch, Ed­win Ru­dolph, when the sur­viv­ing mem­bers de­scend on the fam­ily homestead for the read­ing of the will.

Chief among Ed­win’s in­her­i­tors are his niece and nephew, sib­lings Kya and Ja­son Ru­dolph, played by Selina Rus­sell and Robb Judd, re­spec­tively.

Be­ing dead is no ex­cuse not to be funny in this pro­duc­tion, how­ever, or at least be present on stage – the cast is joined by sev­eral mem­bers of the de­ceased Ran­dolph fam­ily. Doug McDon­ald takes on the role of the se­nior Ridgely Ran­dolph, Kya and Ja­son’s great-great-grand­fa­ther, while Chris Grose plays the spirit of their great-great late aunt.

Round­ing out the cast of the liv­ing are Kathy Fa­hey as the fam­ily’s long-suf­fer­ing house­keeper, Tom Bolton as the stiff-up­per­lipped but­ler, and Chris MacKay as the Ru­dolph’s straight-laced lawyer Sey­more Mead.

“My role is to get the will read and that process fin­ished in an ap­pro­pri­ate amount of time, which I come to re­al­ize is not the case,” ex­plains MacKay of his char­ac­ter. It’s a sim­ple enough job, but Mead quickly finds him­self drawn into the fam­ily drama un­fold­ing around him.

“Through­out the play, I stay firm on morals and le­gal­i­ties. That’s just who I am. That’s my na­ture as Sey­more Mead,” he says. “And then I’m in­trigued with how crazy things have got­ten in the past and al­most want to be in­volved this time,” he says. “So I step in un­of­fi­cially as an ex­ecu­tor should not and of­fer my as­sis­tance. Just

like my­self can get to a point where they want to kill each other.”

Ul­ti­mately, Mead finds him­self nav­i­gat­ing a lot of fam­ily dys­func­tion, dis­em­bod­ied ghosts, and, yes, some po­ten­tial mur­der, as he tries to sort out the fam­ily’s af­fairs.

“I think you could find a mo­ral in the story. I think it’s very easy to find a mo­ral in the story,” he says. “But I think it’s more of hav­ing fun, watch­ing a fam­ily fall apart all about money, and greed, get­ting in the way.”

It’s quite a re­lat­able story, both MacKay and Huschka note, in a far­ci­cal sort of way. Most peo­ple don’t have rel­a­tives out to get them, or vast sums of money to fight over, or ghosts, for that mat­ter. But many will re­late to the oft-dys­func­tional fam­ily dy­namic on dis­play, and the messy re­la­tion­ships they tend to bring about.

“I think there’s a lot of good touches be­tween Ja­son and Kya,” says MacKay, of the sib­lings seek­ing the in­her­i­tance. “And they even touch-base in the words that they say, and in the ac­tions that they do with each other, that a lot of fam­i­lies will re­late to. Younger sib­lings and older sib­lings. And how they re­act to­wards each other.”

“It’s fun,” adds Huschka suc­cinctly. “It is a fun night. It’s quick mov­ing, it’s a fast-paced play.”

Mur­der Most FouledUp will be hit­ting the lo­cal theatre house on 76 Howard Ave., Elmira, start­ing to­mor­row (Fri­day) at 7 p.m., and runs Thurs­day through Sun­day for two weeks un­til their fi­nal show on Novem­ber 17. Tick­ets and sched­ule in­for­ma­tion can be found on­line at www.elmi­rathe­atre.com.

[FAISAL ALI / THE OB­SERVER]

It’s a tale of mur­der, may­hem and fam­ily hi­jinks at the Elmira Theatre Com­pany this month. Tim Bolton, Chris MacKay and Kathy Fa­hey are among those dragged into the Ru­dolph fam­ily’s trou­bles in Mur­der Most Fouled-Up.

[FAISAL ALI / THE OB­SERVER]

Joanne Priebe joins the cast as a long-de­ceased rel­a­tive of the Ru­dolph fam­ily.

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