Theatre Preview: Struck by the stage

By Diana Lyuber

Sadly, some marriages reach an unfortunate stage where the spark dies but your significant other remains irritatingly alive. Couples’ counseling is for the weak, clearly now is the time to dust off those ingenious murder ploys and let the bloodlust commence!

It may not be the healthiest solution, but it’s the premise behind Stage Struck, Vertigo Mystery Theatre’s first bloody offering of the season. The play pulls us into the not-so-fairytale marriage of an ex-stage manager and his actress wife, both disgruntled and literally intent on stabbing the other in the back. Who comes out of this thriller-comedy with a pulse, and who’s left for fertilizer is something spoiler-careful Director Martin Fishman treads carefully around.

“It’s a thriller and a mystery, so it’s really hard to talk too much about it because you’re always afraid of giving something away,” he remarks. “But it’s very well crafted. All kinds of twists and turns and things happen, it’s a very witty play. Simon Gray is a really incredible writer so the language is beautiful.”

Fishman’s no newbie when it comes to mysteries, with several whodunits like Sleuth already under his directorial belt. He knows a good mystery when he sees one and thinks Vertigo Mystery Theatre in general and Stage Struck in particular offer just that.

“I think that really good thrillers and mysteries are hard to find,” he admits. “There are a lot of them out there, but I think this one comes together in a really interesting way. We really follow the characters, we watch them surprise the other characters, so we’re always one step ahead. The relationships are very interesting in this play, they’re very true, they’re very believable. They’re very human.”

With such a character-driven plot, good casting is obviously essential. Stage Struck also is no exception, casting veterans Stephen Hair and Heather Lea MacCallum among others.

“[Stage Struck] has a really strong, strong cast. It’s really fun to watch [them] work together and see the relationships that develop on stage and what they give each other. Adding all that detail and texture to the storyline really makes it much more interesting for an audience.”

Whether he’s directing Shakespeare in the Park or a thrilling screamer, Fishman appreciates the range of Calgary’s theatre-buffs allowing such diversity.

“I think the great thing about Calgary, now that it’s growing, is that you can have a Shakespeare in the Park, you can have a Vertigo Mystery Theatre, you can have a One Yellow Rabbit, and there’s enough of an audience for all of them,” he remarks. “This city, you know, it’s growing in a really good way.”

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