Performing in “A Perfect Weekend for Murder,” are, from left: Brian (Eric Olson), Cat (Ashley Olson), John (David Stedman), Mike (Dan Floyd), Mary (Debra Olds), Lisa (Jeana Crozier) and the sheriff Megan Shiver. [ Panhandle Players | Contributed ]
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New seats cushion laughs at Players’ mystery

With four nights of sold-out performances of a wacky murder mystery, the Panhandle Players ushered in a new era in audience comfort last weekend.

Because the Panhandle Players have invested in ensuring the Chapman Theatre now seats 200 on new cushioned seats complete with cup holders – fewer than the more than 300 aging wooden school auditorium seats could handle – it was no doubt made easier to sell out.

The new auditorium seats at the Chapman Theatre [ Panhandle Players | Contributed ]

But the audience reaction to “A Perfect Weekend for Murder” knew no limits, as the laughs came quickly, and the action moved briskly, in Royce Rolstad’s newest production, which he both wrote and directed.

Set on St. George Island in the present day, the show featured an ensemble cast of three couples embroiled in a murder mystery, plus the obligatory sheriff who investigates everything, and Rolstad in a small part as a seedy maintenance man.

What made the show work as well as it did was the fact that rather than being an Agatha Christieesque whodunnit, the cast of seasoned actors turned into a spoof and milked the many mystery memes for all the laughs they could muster, with a hefty dose of slapstick.

The men in the play, seasoned veteran performers Brian (Eric Olson) and John (David Stedman), plus newcomer Dan Floyd (Mike), each did well, with Olson making the most of his muscular physique, Floyd his penchant for effusive comic flourishes and Stedman his command of the nuances of character.

Cat (Ashley Olson), left, breaks down while talking with sheriff Megan Shiver. [ Panhandle Players | Contributed ]

But it was the women in the play who warrant even greater praise, as it was their vitality and verve that powered the play from its very start. Ashley Olson as Cat showed she could carry what amounted to the lead role and be more than just a pretty face, and Debra Olds, as Mary, husbanded her energy until it exploded in the second act, and gave rise to the surprise ending. Jeana Crozier, as Lisa, was subtle as the witty shrink, uttering her lines effectively as almost afterthoughts. Megan Shiver, as the sheriff, delivered her usual comic mastery and, as she has been known to do in several previous productions, performed another of her inimitable “death” scenes.

The show provided what the Panhandle Players does best, perform spirited, sometimes silly comedies without delving much deeper into the human psyche. It carried the audience nicely along, but even if it hadn’t, at least the audience would have been bored in comfort.

The Panhandle Players will close their 2023-24 on April 4 through 7 with a production of Ken Ludwig’s “Lend Me A Tenor.”

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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