By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
Funny how a charming resort village like Big Little Lake, where the well-toned meet the well-heeled over white wine spritzers, can turn suddenly … well, sinister.
Murder has a way of doing that. It populates the most idyllic village with suspects and suspicions; it pulls at the loose threads of dark family secrets to see what unravels. It even changes the lighting. Yes, my shivery friends, the stakes are high.
It’s to the affluently benign golden world of soccer moms and gossip that the 27th annual Die-Nasty Soap-A-Thon takes us this weekend in Murder At Big Little Lake. In the course of the venerable 50-hour improv soap marathon that suds up Friday at 7 p.m. and doesn’t rinse off till Sunday at 9 p.m. — a venerable Edmonton comedy institution — the grand traditions of murder mysteries get the best kind of tribute workout, Dame Agatha to Broadchurch to Big Little Lies.
During the suds weekend, the core Die-Nasty company of improvisers will be joined by a steady stream of all-star guests (including former Rapid Fire Theatre artistic director and improv guru Patti Stiles, in from Australia for the occasion, Saturday only). And because murder mysteries require a particular finesse in the plotting — a challenge only deluxe improvisers can meet — the return of playwright Stewart Lemoine to the team of scene directors, after a suds absence of many seasons, is especially welcome.
No one, including the cast or directors, knows what will happen in Murder at Big Little Lake, of course; it’s to be discovered, minute by minute this weekend. But this is the week the cast mulls over the starting possibilities. Who will they play? Here’s a small sampling:
Jeff Haslam: “Im the village doctor Dr. Cal Shamrock. Sheri (Sheri Somerville) is my wife Diane. We’re on the rocks, but we present a perfect picture….”
Sheri Somerville: “I’m Diane Shamrock, Jeff’s wife. I do a lot of charity events. I have no job, and no interest in one: my husband is a doctor. We have children. They were selfish as they pursue their ‘dreams’. They also feel it necessary to compost table scraps.”
Stephanie Wolfe: “I am Clair Leclair. I’ll be someone’s wife even if he isn’t a character. I think he’s a bond trader and made zillions selling short bonds in 2008 just before the crash (we just watched The Big Short again so it’s on my mind!). I own the Wellness Centre but I’m too perky to be very zen about it. The wellness centre is also where we produce the community play. I’m SO rich.”
Jason Hardwick: “I’m thinking of playing local priest Father Barry Crisp. Very relaxed religious type — more of a friendly therapist than a priest.
Delia Barnett: “I’ll be playing Honey Crisp, Father Crisp’s twin sister who left the nunnery and town mysteriously, and has returned for the weekend….”
As usual in Soap-A-Thons, there are “special shifts.” Saturday, for example, from 5 to 7 p.m., is devoted, in some fashion, to the iconic board game Clue in honour of this year’s setting. The Family Hour, all sweetness and light, is Sunday 1 to 3 p.m.
Murder at Big Little Lake
27th Annual Die-Nasty Soap-A-Thon
Directed by: Vincent Forcier, Belinda Cornish, Tom Edwards, Stephanie Wolfe, Jeff Haslam, Stewart Lemoine
Starring: Belinda Cornish, Jesse Gervais, Shannon Blanchet, Jason Hardwick, Stephanie Wolfe, Jeff Haslam, Sheri Somerville, Tom Edwards, Vincent Forcier, Delia Barnett, Kristi Hansen, Paul Morgan Donald. Plus many special guests.
Where: Varscona Theatre, 10329 83 Ave.
Running: Friday 7 p.m. non-stop through Sunday 9 p.m.
Tickets: $20 daily ($10 for artists and arts students) and $60 weekend passes available at the door. Passes online at varsconatheatre.com.