Villa Thrilla Runs at Atwater Village Theatre
Austin Powers meets The Sopranos by way of Agatha Christie. Ring in the holidays with a hilarious seasonal twist on the classic English murder mystery when Gary Lee Reed directs Villa Thrilla by Anna Nicholas, opening tonight, Oct. 18 at Atwater Village Theatre.
Villa Thrilla is merry, it's mod - and it's madcap! Former mob boss Mickey Detoro has invited gangster couple Tony and Donna Bonifacio (Brad Lee Wind and Danya LaBelle) to a holiday party at the once magnificent Thrilla mansion (voice of Camilla Thrilla by Doris Roberts). But how will they recognize Mickey, who's been in witness protection and undergone plastic surgery, and why has he asked them to use assumed names? Meanwhile, the villa is filled with actors who think that Tony and Donna are paid audience members at their '60s mod murder mystery party. Fading regional circuit actor James Roland (Gregory Gifford Giles) has been cast in the role of groovy host Zachary, while classically trained actress Jane Carthcarbellum-Marbellumson (Erica Hanrahan-Ball) is playing against type as Zachary's bimbo wife, Cleo. James' real-life wife Angela (Carolyn Crotty) is in character as Zachary's sister, ex-soap star Norman O. Norman (Steven Connor) has accepted a supporting role as family friend Frederick Phister, and heartthrob Armando (Andrew Villarreal) - does he have a behind-the-scenes crush on James? - is playing the Latino houseboy. Adding to the confusion, Norman's niece Carolyn (Giulia Davis) has tagged along with him to work - a goth college student who just may have a secret agenda. Then the dreidel song plays, the first body falls, and the play's director, Eddie, steps into a cameo as Detective Mike Saw. But wait. Why has everyone gone off script? And why is a real cop (Leslie A. Jones) knocking at the door? "This play is going to be so much fun for the audience," enthuses Reed. "Whodunnits are complex to begin with, but Anna has created a play within a play within a play that is wild and crazy, with the actors playing layers upon layers. Usually murder mysteries have an element of seriousness since a prerequisite is someone getting killed for real-so a murder mystery farce is a pretty unique concept." According to Nicholas, "I've always loved Noises Off and I'm a rabid mystery novel fan - so here we are!" Nicholas is a playwright-actress-novelist-filmmaker whose plays have been produced locally by the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble (Theatre in the Dark), Lex Theatre (Lu/Lou - LA Weekly Award nomination), Friends and Artists Theatre (The Beaver Suite) and L.A. Theatre Works (Incunabula). She wrote, produced and directed the indie mockumentary Univers'l, starring Tony Todd, a multilingual film about the LA riots of 1992 that garnered prizes at film festivals including Mannheim Heidelberg and the Film Festival of Human Rights in Brussels, was an Official Selection at the Chicago, Mill Valley, Goteborg and Bergamo festivals, and was subsequently broadcast on PBS. Her short film, The Big Bowling Ball, starred James Remar. She is the author of four published novels, including "The Muffia," the first of a series published by Water Street Press, and "Homegrown: The Terror Within," written under the pseudonym, Cialan Haasnic. She authored a monthly column for Vine Times magazine, and her work has been published in Touring & Tasting magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The Chronicle of the Horse and other publications. Her first book of non-fiction, the 2005 "Royal Mack's Teeny Tiny Wine Guide" was reissued in 2012, and an essay, "On Wine and Men," appears in Penguin Books' "In My Mother's Kitchen." She has guest blogged at ShelfPleasure.com, PeaceisSexy.net and her own blog appears at www.themuffia.us. Nicholas taught writing at the University of Oregon and in Los Angeles and is a former managing director of the Ojai Playwrights Conference. Gary Lee Reed's directing credits include a six-month, multiple award-nominated run of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change at Crown City Theatre; world premieres of Hah Nah at the Lounge Theatre in Hollywood and Shades for LATC; and critically acclaimed productions of And The World Goes Round at the NoHo Arts Center and Godspell for Actors Co-op. His production of Most Happy Fella received a Best Musical nomination from the LA Weekly. Other directing credits include To Kill A Mockingbird, Bonnie And Clyde-The Two Fisted Six Gun Musical, My Way, A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra, 1776, Jerry's Girls, Woman In Black, Sentimental Journey and the world premieres of Lights, Dancing With the Bad Man and Soldier's Song. His production of Falling Lightly won first place at the annual Jerome Lawrence One Act Play Festival in Los Angeles. Scenic design for Villa Thrilla is by Madison Rhoades; lighting design is by Brandon Baruch; sound design is by Peter Bayne; graphic design is by Fred Baxter; casting is by Raul Clayton Staggs; associate producer is Jerusha Aimee Liu; and the production stage manager is Josephine Austin. Villa Thrilla runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m., Oct. 18 through Nov. 23. All tickets are $32. Atwater Village Theatre is located at 3269 Casitas Ave in Los Angeles, CA 90039. On-site parking is free. For reservations and information, call 800-838-3006 or go to www.VillaThrilla.com