Little Theatre of Walla Walla Stages 'Exit the Body'

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Welcoming her fashion designer friend Lillian Seymour (Shauna Fletcher) into the New England home where she hopes to relax and get some work done, mystery rider Crane Hammond (Jessie Barkl), right, offers greetings and reservations that something's amiss during Little Theatre's "Exit The Body".

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Lillian Seymour (Shauna Fletcher), friend of mystery writer Crane Hammond, waits outside the French doors of Hammond's New England home where mystery, missing diamonds and disappearing bodies are about to play out in the coming night.

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In the midst of all the mystery, comedy spills out during a conversation between Crane Hammond (Jessie Barkl) and her secretary Angelica Dimock (Kate Bixley).

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Unaffected by the mystery of the moment, Crane Hammond (Jessie Barkl) does a dramatic swoon in exaggeration of the point she makes to her secretary Angelica Dimock (Kate Bixley), left.

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Angelica Dimock (Kate Bixley) listens apprehensively to the ramblings of Sheriff Vernon Cookley (Rich Hinz).

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Mystery writer Crane Hammond (Jessie Barkl), right, does her best to convince her rental agent Helen O'Toole (Terri Trick) that she's seeing things as she escorts her away from the French doors where O'Toole claims to have seen "a man standing in his pajamas". Misconceptions and missing things abound in Little Theatre's production of "Exit The Body".

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Small-time crook and gang member wannabe, Randolph (Jon Loney) tippy-toes his way out of the closet and past a distracted sheriff in "Exit The Body" at Little Theatre.

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New England small town jack-of-all-trades Vernon Cookley (Rich Hinz) shows off his badge---and his job as sheriff---to visiting mystery writer Crane Hammond (Jessie Barkl) during "Exit The Body" at Walla Walla's Little Theatre.

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Strange things keep happening behind the closet door and mystery writer Crane Hammond (Jessie Barkl) tries to hide the strangeness from her friend Lillian Seymour (Shauna Fletcher) during "Exit The Body" at Walla Walla's Little Theatre.

The Little Theatre's upcoming production of the farcical mystery "Exit the Body," by Frank Carmichael, features something for everyone: jewel thieves, deception, miscommunication and even a case of trading spouses.

The show runs Friday and Saturday and Feb. 19-21 and 26-27. Friday and Saturday performances begin at 8 p.m.; the Sunday matinee is at 2 p.m. The three-act play will run with one intermission.

Set in the early 1960s, "Exit the Body" tells the story of well-known mystery writer Crane Hammond (Jessie Barkl) and her secretary, Kate (Angelica Dimock), who expect a peaceful vacation when they rent a house in Maine, away from the daily grind of their jobs New York City. But soon after arriving, Hammond realizes relaxing may not be an option when she discovers the scandalous details of the death of the house's former owner and finds a body hanging in the coat closet.

"I live with murder all year long," the mystery writer laments. "It's simply overdoing it to have it on vacation."

When Hammond tells her secretary about the body, she does not believe it.

"You've been reading too many of your own books," Kate says.

As more comical disasters unfold, an exhausted Hammond declares, "If this were one of my books, I'd start over."

Director Jean Weber, who proposed "Exit the Body" for this season, selected the play for its creative mix of suspense and humor. In 2007, she directed another Carmichael farce, "Out of Sight, Out of Murder," at the Little Theatre.

"His plays are funnier than most mysteries," assistant director Gloria Schille said. "Every character is a little quirky."

"It's got all the right elements of physical comedy and comedic dialogue," actor Brian Sheridan said. "There's always something to laugh at. You'll be laughing at dialogue, and then someone will do something ridiculous. It's easy to get lost in the laughter."

For co-stage manager Dale Grogan, the comedic timing of the show means more work.

"In all of the shows I've done, this is the most challenging in terms of (giving cues)," he said. "There are so many entrances and exits to keep track of. People are constantly going in and out of every door."

Weber and Schille, who have worked together on Little Theatre productions in the past, make sure things go smoothly and tend to see eye-to-eye in moments of creative inspiration.

"When we direct together, we will both wake up at 2 a.m. with an idea," Schille said. "We'll say ‘What do you think if we try this?' And we'll both have the same ideas."

Weber and Schille hand-picked the cast of 10 local actors, who have rehearsed nightly since late November with a two-week holiday break.

"In community theatre, you still get to have a life," Schille said. "But if you sign up for a show, we tell you right away it's a time commitment."

Many of the cast and crew members have worked together on Little Theatre productions in the past.

"It's almost like a reunion," Dimock said. "Unfortunately, we probably get along too well, and sometimes we miss our cues. But we promise not to do that in the show!"

The cast also includes Terri Trick, Shauna Fletcher, Phillip Millet, Alfred Chang, Rich Hinz, John Loney and Shannon Bradford.

"They're doing a marvelous job," Weber said. "I haven't had any nightmares about this show, which is a good thing. … It's really coming along well. Now it's the little things we need to work on."

"I think the one thing we're missing is an audience," Chang said.

If you see the show, you have to be able keep a secret.

"It's a really fun play that makes you suspect everything," Weber said. "So we want to emphasize that if you come to see it, don't tell your friends the ending!"

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