Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Spicing up the stage — ‘Hot Knights’ murder mystery liberally seasoned with laughs

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

In this year’s Kenai Performers murder mystery dinner theater show, “Hot Knights,” Mike Druce has brought back many of his familiar characters.

There’s the deceased, who had a pretty good idea someone was out to get him, but still wasn’t able to avoid getting got.

There’s the smooth talker out to be everybody’s friend, and the tough act who’s more bluff than bite. Then there’s the dumb one, the floozy and the naïve youth.
And don’t forget the one-eyed, ex-con, safe-cracking Mexican gardener.
Well, OK, that one’s new.

And so is the plot, set in the genteel South.

“It’s kind of like ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ meets ‘Dallas,’” Druce said.

“Meets ‘Airplane,’” added Allen Auxier, one of the actors.

Auxier plays Big Granddaddy Prescott Knight, patriarch of the extended, prosperous and dysfunctional Knight clan. He’s also the keeper of the secret recipe to Knight’s Hot Sauce, which is the source of the family fortune.

He is engaged to Pepper Devine, played by Bethany Thornton. What she lacks in fidelity she makes up for in youth and beauty. The family is sure she’s only with Prescott for the inheritance — although they’re no better in that department.

Granddaughter Shiloh Devereaux (Yvette Tappana) is as hot after Prescott’s money as she is any man she meets, including Fester N. Boyle (Cliff Bouchard), Prescott’s personal attorney.

Sue Rae DuKane (Charlissa Magen) is Prescott’s daughter, married to W.C. DuKane (Ken Duff). Magnolia DuKane (Tanya Marquis) is their idealistic, if somewhat dense, daughter.

She’s engaged, or hoping to be, to the only character dimmer than she is — Brick Tarmac (Gabe Segura).

“He runs the intelligence gamut from A to B,” Druce said.

Prescott’s ex-wife, Helen Knight (Mary Bailey) returns from her enthusiastic enjoyment of Italy — and Italians — just in time for Prescott’s death. Through it all, the family housekeeper, Sassy (Terri Zopf-Schoessler) checks that their whims are met and glasses kept full, even if she doesn’t keep her tongue in check.

There’s also Juan (Bob Mabrey), the aforementioned gardener, who is not to be confused with — but constantly is — the other hired help, “Juan two,” as he’s often called.

Rounding out the cast is Judge Titus A. Drumm (Jamie Nelson), who comes in during the second act to get to the bottom of the murder, with the audience’s help.

In the first scene Prescott reveals that there have been several attempts on his life, and he’s considering changing his will. Whoever is making the effort to kill him succeeds at Prescott’s annual birthday cookout, leaving the family and staff to point fingers and wonder what has become of the missing secret sauce recipe.
Druce said the characters in a sense write the play for him.

“The basic 10 characters are really the same people in every show. I change the names and put them in a different situation,” he said.

As for the names, he hasn’t run out of puns yet.

“Ask me a year from now when I’ve had writer’s block for about six months or so. They seem to just kind of suggest themselves,” he said.

“We certainly are suggestive,” Tappana said.

In this version, Druce spiced up the who-dunnit with a Southern flair.

“I always had kind of fond memories of the ‘Dallas’ TV show,” he said. “I don’t know how the hot sauce came about. I think once I came up with the hot sauce the rest fell in place.”

Along with Prescott, two others are harmed in the making of this murder mystery, although they aren’t ever seen in the play, just referred to. One is Juan two. He’s shot, making for a hole in Juan.

“If you’re looking to be offended, you will be,” Druce said, referring to lines like that.

“Hot Knights” may not be brimming with good taste in that sense, but tasty Southern fare will be served for the dinner portion of the show. The show is a joint production of the Kenai Performers and Kenai Senior Citizens Center. Dinner is at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the senior center.

Tickets are $30 each, which includes dinner and the show. There’s also a no-host bar. Tickets are available at the senior center, Charlotte’s and Already Read Books in Kenai, and River City Books in Soldotna.

Druce doesn’t yet know what his characters will be up to in the future (other than no good), but one thing’s certain in this show — the secret’s in the sauce.

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