The central plot point of the River City Community Player's new comedic mystery is front and center from the first minute.
And it doesn't take long for the sheet-covered table in the back of the stage to become a sort of central player in “The Night I Died at the Palace Theater,” which opens Friday.
But there's a lot between the discovery of Palace Theater director Dexter Allan under that sheet ― deceased ― as the cast comes together for the reveal of the end of his new play “I Ain't Got Nobody” and the solution to the ensuing mystery, said director Richard Bayse.
Having directed about a dozen productions for the RCCP since 1988 and acted in several more, Bayse said he initially passed on directing “The Night I Died at the Palace Theater” because he was unfamiliar with it. But he said he agreed to read the script and found himself drawn to the story.
“It wasn't until about the last 10 or 12 pages that I'm going 'Oh, OK,'” he said. “There's a little twist at the end that makes it fun.”
About 10 members of the 12-actor cast share the spotlight for most of the play, which was written by Pat Cook, trading dialogue and accusations alike, interspersed with monologues from each of the actors. Details emerge about each cast member's sometimes contentious relationship with their director.
Bayse said it's that rapid-fire dialogue that makes the play both interesting for the audience and a challenge for the cast.
“They all have a huge line load and there's a lot of dialogue and the thing that's been challenging for them is there's so much dialog and so much exchange of this and that they really, really have to be on their toes,” Bayse said.
On Tuesday, the cast was trying out its timing in front of a test audience ― high-school students from Tonganoxie.
“It feels a lot different knowing that there's going to be folks out there tonight,” said first-time RCCP actor Mike Megill.
With both new and veteran actors, Linda Finch, who plays Glenda Howard in the production, said the cast has worked to find its rhythm.
“Initially, it's a slow procedure,” she said. “At first you're having to block individual movements.”
But she said the cast has worked together to develop a sort of collective “muscle memory.” Kevin Albee, who plays Gordon Donnell, said that can make for a good show.
“Acting is a team sport,” he said.
“The Night I Died at the Palace Theater” will open with a show at 8 p.m. Friday. Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday, April 26 and 27 and May 3 and 4. A 2 p.m. matinee is scheduled for April 28. Tickets cost $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and groups and $5 for children 12 and under. Call 913-651-0027 to make a reservation or visit www.rccplv.com for information on reserving tickets online.