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Glenda Frank


“Deadly Stages, ” written by Marc Castle and director Mark Finley
Theatre Five, Theatre Row, 410 West 46 St., NYC.
Feb. 16 through March 16, 2024.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays at 7:00 p.m.; Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays at 2:00 p.m.; Sundays at 3:00 p.m.; additional matinee: Wednesday, March 13 at 2:00 p.m. 
Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission.
Tickets are $67.50 (plus $5.00 online fee). Visit: bfany.org. Direct ticketing link: https://bfany.org/theatre-row/shows/deadly-stages/. Information at OvationTix.com.

Marc Castle as Veronica. Photo by Stephen Webster

“Deadly Stages” is a delicious comic bon bon, a gender-bending homage to the movies of the 1940s and 50s, now playing on Theatre Row. This back stage, murder-mystery stars Marc Castle,  co-writer with director Mark Finley, as the charming Veronica Traymore,  an aging  theatre legend who has been cast in a new play with a temperamental young film actor.

The plot is familiar. The delight is in the performances. Veronica’s last show closed after 37 performances so she is more than excited when a friendly producer (Tom Galantich) introduces her to Anthony Arlo (David Leeper), an up-and-coming playwright/director who has a role for her. I’d love to play the daughter, she says. No, he says, the mother. But sparks fly between them, so she, feeling slightly wounded, accepts.

Dooney (Ellen Reilly), her protective assistant, who is retiring, introduced her to Phoebe (Dani Marcus), her new assistant. After Dooney catches Graham (Rob Hancock) kissing Phoebe and declares she needs to stay on, she stumbled onto the stage with a dagger in her back. The murder spree has begun. It’s not hard to guess the perpetrator or the motivation, but the machinations are fun, and the means of death are varied enough to keep them unexpected. You might even want to applaud when the narcissistic film star receives her just reward. Fingers point in all directions, even at our heroine, Veronica Traymore, so the play is chockful of conflict and danger. It’s a good ride.

The writers have a light, playful touch and a huge bag of comic devices. The double and triple casting offer the support actors time to show off their skills. Adding a bad hip and accent, Ellen Reilly hit a home run with Dooney, so her demise was tinged with disappointment that the actor might vanish. But she returns twice, her characters always distinctive and compelling. One of my favorites was the off-stage dialogue as one actor exits and we hear them actor in distinctive dialogue with two of their characters. At times I was reminded of the multiple casting in “The 39 Steps.” Fun puns and inside jokes (“I’d kill for a great role.” “Over my dead body.”)

Mark Finley kept the pace quick and energetic, but measured in the poignant and tense moments to remind us that life and death and love and careers were at stake. Appealing costumes and set by Court Watson. Lighting by Zach Pizza.

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