Play On!, Attic Playhouse. Rick Abbot's play is as doomed as the characters in it. An amateur theater group is staging a world premiere penned by one of its members, a mystery entitled "Murder Most Foul." Days before the opening actors miss cues, techies fail to produce vital props and sound effects, the playwright insists on last-minute rewrites, and the director's sphincter is tightening by the minute. There's a saying in the theater that disastrous late rehearsals make for a great opening night, but it ain't necessarily so.

Worse than the play's utter predictability is its painfully stilted dialogue ("We want the opening to be a smash, not a smash up!"). Overcoming these fundamental obstacles would be a challenge for even the brightest of comedic stars, but this group misses even the basic rules of comedy. Most of them are playing people who can't act. But if the real-life characters are as campy and shrill as their badly acted counterparts, it's not funny. Surely all these performers have lived through dress rehearsals from hell and might draw on those experiences to deliver more authentic performances. It's not enough that Jason Kaplan and Kevin Wieter pull off some great physical bits and that Kristine Kitts and Rolanda Klyce get some well-deserved laughs as the put-upon stage crew.

Those who like the madcap play-within-a-play premise are better off renting Noises Off or Waiting for Guffman. This "Murder Most Foul" is, sadly, most lame.

--Kim Wilson

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