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Wellesley explores The Art of Murder

Wellesley Public Library will be the scene of murder and mystery this month with Theatre Wellesley’s spring production, The Art of Murder.

Lori Hoelscher, Jamie McLean, Al Cook and Dave McNorgan will bring The Art of Murder to life this month at the Wellesley Public Library.[Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
Lori Hoelscher, Jamie McLean, Al Cook and Dave McNorgan will bring The Art of Murder to life this month at the Wellesley Public Library. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
The Joe DiPietro play follows renowned painter Jack Brooks, played by Dave McNorgan, who waits for his art dealer to arrive, in order to murder him. But everything is not as it seems.

“When I started perusing the script it was a page-turner,” McNorgan said. “I couldn’t put it down until I figured out what on Earth was going on here.”

He says it’s a very intimate setting and the audience will feel like they’re in Jack and Annie Brooks’ living room, where the play takes place. With a cast of just four, and a maximum audience of 30 people, the play has unique hurdles. Annie Brooks is played by Lori Hoelscher, Vincent Cummings by Al Cook, Kate, the Irish Maid by Jamie McLean, and Allan Strong is directing.

“The challenge for the actors is to maintain that fourth wall,” McNorgan said. “We continue acting. We don’t try to turn it into a back and forth performance with the audience.”

Stepping away from the usual family friendly play that Theatre Wellesley puts on each fall, he said he wanted to use their spring production to look at more challenging scripts, where characters could develop with a little more meat.

“Smaller scripts can be more challenging, so we keep this at four characters or less and a script that doesn’t have to be comedy,” McNorgan said. “In fact this one will be murder mystery and it’s more of a drama. It’s got some dark comedy to it, but it’s more of a drama and a mystery. The mood swings from beginning to end.”

To keep it affordable they perform in the upper room of the Wellesley Public Library, which is usually their rehearsal space. They set up a full-size set there but can only fit 30 chairs. And he says it worked for them last year to have that kind of closeness in the setting.

“The payoff has been … we get some more challenging roles for our actors to work on. It’s been that, for sure,” McNorgan said.

Audience-wise, with 30 people a show they can cover their costs because over six shows they’re getting as many people in as they’d get in a couple shows.

“On the other hand last year we performed four shows just over one weekend, but we thought so much work goes into this we want to at least spread it over two weekends,” McNorgan said.

They picked their cast in January and have been rehearsing since February. He said this play won’t be suitable for young children, but for teenagers and up.

“That’s the good part about doing a smaller show in the spring is we can pick something that’s not necessarily family-oriented,” McNorgan said. “We’ve taken out a lot of the swearing that just wouldn’t be suitable for any audience, no matter what age. But some of the foul language stayed.”

He says he’s got a number of plays picked out for spring productions for probably the next five years. They’ll range from heartwarming stories to dramas, or a mix of both. The last show, on April 19 is already sold out. He adds they’ve got several matinees, which seem to work well in Wellesley. Regardless of which time people choose to come, they are sure to be entertained.

“They’re guaranteed to be on the edge of their seats until the end of the play,” McNorgan said.

The Art of Murder plays upstairs at the Wellesley Public Library on April 10 (8 p.m.), April 11 and 12 (2 p.m.), April 17 (8 p.m.), and April 18 and 19 (2 p.m.). Admission is $10 and space is limited. To reserve your tickets visit Pym’s Village Market or call 519-656-9886.

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