Curtain Call: "Murderers"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Hear the title Murderers, and your first thought may be of hardened criminals serving life sentences in maximum-security prisons. Think again.

Nattily attired Gerald Halverson has some business to take care of concerning his mother-in-law's will. Lucy Stickler is an aging housewife determined to end the husband-stealing career of another elderly woman. Minka Lupino, described as "an avenging angel," sets out to protect the residents where she works. Which happens to be the Riddle Key Retirement Center near Sarasota, Florida.

Aside from their connections to Riddle Key, the three have another thing in common. They are murderers in Jeffrey Hatcher's play of the same name. The black comedy, which opens CATCO's 26th season, is a trio of monologues. Three Viewings, CATCO's first Hatcher play back in 1996, had a similar structure.

"Hatcher's the common denominator," noted director and CATCO veteran Jonathan Putnam. "His characters tend to be very witty and motivated. The thing I like about Hatcher's writing in those two instances is that they do have a Midwest connection, 'cause he's from Steubenville and he tends to pepper his stuff with Midwestern sensibility."

Directing monologues poses special challenges, Putnam said. "The movement on stage can be tricky because there's really nothing to motivate a character to move except the notion that they are addressing a different part of the audience. Theoretically, they could sit there on a stool all night, but it wouldn't be very interesting visually."

In the process of telling their stories, the characters act them out. "We spent a lot of time in rehearsal actually trying to hash out how good these people were doing other characters, 'cause they're really good storytellers," Putnam explained.

"One way to approach monologues like this is, you know they're telling these things in the past tense ... but you still, as an actor and a character, have to make discoveries and realize things in the moment," he continued. "So we see them telling a story in past tense, but actually living it at that moment."

CATCO favorite Kerry Shanklin plays Lucy. She's joined by two actors new to the company: Jill Taylor, who earned her MFA at Indiana University, playing Minka; and Cedarville College faculty member Matthew Moore portraying Gerald.

Putnam confessed to a great affection for Hatcher's cheerful killers. "None of them have any remorse about what they've done," he said. "I just love all three characters and I hope the audience agrees with me that they have every right to do what they did."

CATCO 2009-10

Recent plays by CATCO favorites, a world premiere about a local artistic eminence and revivals of past hits mark the remainder of the troupe's 2009-10 season.

Nov. 24-Dec.13 will be Conor McPherson's The Seafarer. "We've had great luck with McPherson in the past," recalled CATCO's Jonathan Putnam. "It's our Christmas show - it's five drunk Irishmen playing cards on Christmas Eve."

Evie's Waltz by Carter Lewis (Feb. 17-March 7) is "about teenage angst and teenagers' relationships with their parents," said Putnam. "Typical of Lewis, it's got some great plot twists and it goes places you don't think it's gonna go."

Columbus' own Elijah Pierce is the subject of Chiquita Mullins Lee's Pierce to the Soul (April 7-25). Workshopped for several years here at CATCO, the play will star Alan Bomar Jones.

Putnam himself will be onstage twice this season. Dec. 3-27, he revives Crumpet the Elf in the adaptation of David Sedaris' The Santaland Diaries. And he joins CATCO founder Geoffrey Nelson in the resurrection of Charles Ludlam's spoof The Mystery of Irma Vep, June 2-17. "I'm really looking forward to that," Putnam said.


When: Through Oct. 18

Where: Riffe Center Studio Two Theatre, Downtown