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'Three Murders' brings goofy intrigue to the stage

Beaverton Civic Theatre production opens tonight in Beaverton City Library
by: Submitted photo Beaverton Civic Theatre's new show is a playful takeoff of classic private-eye movies.

What are audiences most likely to enjoy about the Beaverton Civic Theatre's upcoming performances of 'Three Murders, and it's only Monday?'

As one of its actors explains, it's likely the combination of sly humor and sustained sense of a good, old-fashioned 'Who-done-it?'

'I think it's a hilarious piece,' says Jess Reed, who plays 'Beatrice' in the production, during a break at Tuesday's evening rehearsal. 'It's pun-ny, but also the natural interactions of the characters lead to a lot of funny moments. And anybody on the stage could be the murderer.'

'Three Murders and It's Only Monday,' a comedy/murder spoof by Pat Cook, opens Friday at 8 p.m. in the Beaverton City Library Theater, 12375 S.W. Fifth St. The play runs through Oct. 9 with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays.

Described as a playful takeoff of classic private-eye movies, the production's intricate plot follows detective Harry Monday as he investigates three murders at the Peaceful Pines Sanitarium.

Reed, a Portland resident who heard about the production through her friend, Director Ilana Watson, says she was unfamiliar with the play. She quickly got sucked into its skewed gumshoe underworld, however.

'I read a few bits online, and I thought it was hysterical,' she says. 'I read for a couple of parts. I think I had the most fun with Beatrice.'

The character, she observes, offers more than meets the eye.

'I like Beatrice's attitude. She doesn't sound smart at first, but she is. She knows what's up, and she doesn't take any nonsense from (Doctor Morrissey),' Reed says.

Melissa Riley, executive director of the Beaverton Civic Theatre and producer of 'Three Murders,' says she likes to start with a director and help fulfill his or her personal vision.

'We try to find directors who are passionate about the plays,' she says. 'Ilana Watson had acted in two previous productions, but hadn't directed since high school. She was familiar' with the play.

'We thought, 'This will be great!'' Riley adds. 'A murder mystery would be wonderful to do, especially with Halloween and everything around the corner.'

Watson says she performed as 'Beatrice' in a 'Three Murders' production as a high school student in Turner, a small town near Salem, in the fall of 1993.

'I thought it was fun,' she recalls.

Watson, who works at a Wells Fargo bank, successfully pitched the production to Riley.

'It's accessible and easy for people to understand,' Watson explains. 'There's a wide range of parts, and a small enough set that's easily accommodated.'

Riley praises the cast of 10, half of whom are Beaverton Civic Theatre veterans and the other half new to the company.

'It's different in this is the first time we've done a murder mystery,' she says. 'I've really enjoyed watching the cast. Their characters are so exciting and very colorful. There's a wide range.'

With opening night looming, Watson says at this point, the cast members are ironing out last-minute wrinkles during rehearsals, this time with the set accessories and lighting in place.

The director can tell the actors have acclimated to their roles based on the creativity they're displaying in the final days of rehearsal.

'We have a great cast here,' she says. 'It's great to see the character bits they've all invented for themselves. I find something new to laugh at every rehearsal.'

Tickets for 'Three Murders and It's Only Monday' are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, students and groups of 10 or more, and $5 for youths age 10 and younger. They are available at the door, by phone at 503-754-9866 or visiting www.BeavertonCivicTheatre.org .

Free parking is available in the library parking lot.