Overland Park’s New Theater opens its new show this week for the fall quarter beginning on Wednesday, August 27. It is a comedy murder mystery called, “Murder Among Friends” starring the gorgeous Morgan Fairchild.
The long running, high-energy “Smokey Joe’s Café” closes Sunday. It is replaced by another genre; a kind of murder-mystery/ comedy farce.
Bob Barry’s 1975 “Murder Among Friends” tells the twisted tale of socialite/actress – show biz wife Angela Forester (played by Morgan Fairchild), her husband Palmer Forester, the Saidenbergs (Gertrude and Marshall), and a theatrical agent named Ted Cotton.
Take an aging, exceedingly vain actor, his very rich wife; a double dealing, double loving agent plunk them down in an elegant New York duplex on New Years’ eve and add dialogue crackling with wit and laughs and you have the basic elements for an evening of pure, sophisticated entertainment.
Angela, the wife and Ted, the agent, are lovers and plan to murder Palmer, the actor, during a contrived robbery on New Year's Eve. But actor and agent are also lovers and have an identical plan to do in the wife. A murder occurs, but not one of the planned ones.
It is a tale of infidelity, blackmail and counterfeit corpus delicti among the rich and famous. Sounds like this could be a serious evening, but like certain others of its genre, Murder among friends lets the audience in for what turn out to be laughs. Barry introduces some surprising plot twists and cynical humor along the way. Think “Deathtrap” or “Murder by Death.”
The original Broadway cast of the two act play included the late and lamented Janet Leigh and the late and rascally Jack Cassidy. Even their understudies were actors of note. John Aniston (father of Jennifer) understudied Jack Cassidy and Holland Taylor (the Mother on 2 ½ Men) understudied Janet Leigh. The New York Times called the original production “Clever, funny, and very surprising.”
Judging from her past roles, Morgan Fairchild appears aptly cast as Angela Forrester in the New Theater production. She has a history of being the beautiful wicked woman and also of being a capable comedic actor.
Ms. Fairchild, originally a Texas girl from Richardson near Dallas, is best known to audiences from her TV work on Falcon Crest, Flamingo Road, Dallas, Search for Tomorrow, and on Friends. She also played a continuing role on the well-remembered “Mork and Mindy” which lit the career candle for the late Robin Williams. Her movie credits are too numerous to list. She has been nominated for both the Emmy and Golden Globe awards.
In a 2012 interview with reporters, she explained why she has tended to play the “bad girl” so often. She related a conversation she had early in her career with Chuck Fries who was the king of TV movies at the time.
"And he kind of he says, “Honey, you haven’t been here very long, have you?” And I said, “No, sir,” and he says, “Let me explain something to you. I can find an ingénue anywhere, but a good bitch is hard to find.” And he says, “The bad guy makes everything happen. It’s the catalyst for everything. I mean think of Shane without Jack Palance, all the movies that you would think of without a good bad guy, you know, Bogart without Edward G. Robinson.”
"He says, “Think of all the,” - he says, “The bad guy makes the movie happen.” And says, “That ingénue can walk through it and nobody will really notice, but the bad guy makes it work.” And he says, “You play good bad guy.”"
And that was at the beginning of a career for someone who listens. “Murder Among Friends” opens at New Theater this Wednesday and runs through November 2. Tickets are available at the New Theater box office, by phone and at the New Theater Website.