Chicago Heights actors bring a delightful murder mystery to Hastings

From left (back row): Nick Markionni, Jeannie Markionni, Jim La Pietra, Lillianna Mitchell, Tony Labriola, and Kenny Garner. Front row: Geoff Purvis, Samm Hilger, Liz Yerkovich and Regina Gadotti
From left (back row): Nick Markionni, Jeannie Markionni, Jim La Pietra, Lillianna Mitchell, Tony Labriola, and Kenny Garner. Front row: Geoff Purvis, Samm Hilger, Liz Yerkovich and Regina Gadotti

American visitors are renewing friendships that they first made 20 years ago at the Stables Theatre in Hastings.

Players from the Chicago Heights Drama Group are currently staging The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 for six performances at the theatre as part of its Diamond Jubilee celebrations this month.

Tony Labriola as O'Reilly holds Elsa Von Grossenkneuten and her guests hostage

Tony Labriola as O'Reilly holds Elsa Von Grossenkneuten and her guests hostage

Play director MaryEllen Fawk said her group was happy to be strengthening cross-cultural links in their exchange programme with the Stables.

She said: “Needless to say, we are very excited. The friendships we have made with the exchange are cherished by all of us. They have developed as a result of our shared love of theatrical performance.

“The Stables Drama Group exchange is a treasure; we know of no other like it or that has had such longevity. We have learned much from each other because of our shared experiences.”

The exchange programme started in 1999 and next year Stables members plan to take one of their productions to the Chicago Heights theatre.

Geoff Purvis and Samm Hilger share a moment

Geoff Purvis and Samm Hilger share a moment

MaryEllen described the Musical Comedy Murders, by John Bishop, as a “delightful romp” that satirizes the murder mystery genre as well as some archetypal characters from stage and film. It tells the story of a series of murders that happen at a New York theatre.

She added: “An ambitious detective named Kelly is determined to solve the case with the help of a wealthy theatre backer, Elsa Von Grossenkneuten.

“Just like in the Thin Man movies of the 1930s and 1940s, the artful detective gathers his suspects in one area, hoping to flush out the infamous Stage Door Slasher.”

Some 26 Americans are visiting Hastings, with eight of them performing in the comedy. The play will be staged at the theatre until Saturday, June 29.

The Chicago Heights group arrived on Monday, June 17 and many of them are staying with host families until their departure on Sunday, June 30. Stables members have arranged social events and outings for the visitors during their stay.

A service to celebrate the theatre’s 60th anniversary will be held on Sunday, June 30, at All Saints’ Church in Hastings Old Town (4pm).

Tickets cost £8.50 for members; adults £13.50; under 18s and group £10.50; £2 off first night tickets.

Bookings and details of Stables membership are available on 01424 423221 or go to www.stablestheatre.co.uk.

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