‘Marquis’ play opening March 9 at WTH is full of ‘laugh out loud’ characters 

Published 9:10 am Friday, March 2, 2018

Bringing it — to life 

To say the current “Marquis Crossing Ladies” play premiering next Friday (March 9) at West T. Hill is situation comedy is putting it very, very mildly. 

So says director Martha Robertson. 

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Not to brag on her own leadership, but Robertson says the crew has been at it for well over a month, now — and they still make her laugh, out loud, at every rehearsal. 

“That’s a testament to their ability to bring the comedy out of the script as well as great script writing,” she says. Plus, the play has basically directed itself — she says in large part due to the experience and talent of the cast. 

The cast 

William Rayens and Megan Preston

The full name of the production is quite a mouthful: “The Marquis Crossing Ladies Society’s First Attempt at Murder” takes a second to roll off the tongue. But Robertson said the lineup hitting the stage for this murder mystery are vets at comedy, for the most part, and everything is rolling along perfectly. 

“They know what to do instinctively and proceed to do it.” After “many wonderful people” came out to audition, Robertson says the end result was a great mix of vets and a few who are almost new.  

Mark Porter gets his cop-pose on while William Rayens reacts behind him.

From left, Susan McGinnis, Megan Preston (seated on couch), Cindy Long, Jesselyn Newhall and Mary Carol Porter.

Although not new to the stage, Mark and Mary Carol Porter are newly working together for the first time — they’re married in real life. And Megan Williams Preston and Susan McGinnis are both brand new to the WTH stage. The cast also includes veteran actors Cindy Long, Jesslyn Newhall, Sonya Steberl and Bill Nichols. 

“Additionally, we have William Rayens, who has ‘grown up’ on the WTH stage,” Robertson says, and she got to snag him for his first “adult role.” 

Cindy Long sips “wine” during dress rehearsal, with Bill Nichols sneaking in behind her.

“It is so much fun watching each actor create their character from within their own personality, to watch them come outside themselves and be somebody different and new.” 

And of course, anytime as a director you work with someone for the first time, there are bound to be surprises. Robertson says, in this case, all surprises have been pleasant ones. 

“(Megan and Susan) are definitely putting their heart and soul into it, along with the rest of the cast. And every single one fo them are getting excellent results. I’m so excited to get them in front of an audience. They will not disappoint.” 

A play within a play 

Bill Nichols and William Rayens

The premise of the play is that the “ladies society for the arts” is unwilling to ay the required royalties for a previously written play. “So they decide that ‘anybody can write a play,’ and proceed to do just that,” Robertson says. 

The play they come up with is a murder mystery, and — unbeknownst to them, she says — happens to be playing out right in the house they’re staying. 

And the ridiculousness ensues: She says the ensemble cast includes a musician-want-to-be who thinks it should be a musical; a seemingly clueless former pharmacy employee who thinks poisoning is the ticket; an overdramatic self-expressionist who is enamored by the dynamics of strangling; and a big, friendly, bumbling neighborhood cop looking for two escaped convicts, one of which is “mad.” 

“Add a friendly young neighbor, a kindly aunt and her sarcastic friend.” So, she says, all of these situations arise, ” … then sit back and enjoy this hilarious play within a play.” 

The crew 

Rounding out the production are the behind-the-scenes bodies who any good director knows are the glue that makes it all stick. “Rosalind Campbell has been invaluable as my assistant director,” Robertson says. She says Campbell and the stage manager, Sarah Brown, have been running rehearsals for her while she’s in Denmark, visiting her newest grandbaby who was born Feb. 18. 

“I could not do this show without them.” 

This is Robertson’s third attempt at directing. She’s worked with an ensemble of five, a cast of four, so this is the largest for her, but again, she says — they’ve made it easy. 

“I do enjoy directing comedy, though this play does have some elements of drama which have been fun to bring out,” Robertson says. 

The audience

This production will most likely appeal to just about anyone, the director says. “Who doesn’t love a great murder mystery? Especially when they can laugh throughout.” 

Robertson chose the show to direct because the script made her laugh — out loud — during the very first read-through. And, she says, it’s not failed to do so at every rehearsal. 

“This show has something for everyone … This cast just reinforces my decision to direct this play. They’ve taken this characters, and they’ve brought them to life.” 

Every director of every show wants their audiences to walk out of the theater having felt every emotion that’s put out there, she says. “For this show, that means I expect to see grins on faces. And I believe they’ll be thinking about and talking about this show for a long while.” 


“The Marquis Crossing Ladies Society’s First Attempt at Murder” goes up March 9-11 and 16-18 at West T. Hill Community Theatre, at 117 Larrimore Lane, Danville. Shows are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays. Tickets:  westthill.net, (859) 319-0205.