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Clovis High presents 'Exit the Body,' entertains audience

I entered the Dan Pessano Theatre with no expectations. I knew nothing about the play Exit the Body, and I knew nothing about Clovis High?s drama program. With an open mind I took my seat and waited for the performance to start.

While I waited, I scanned my new environment for any peculiarities. The room itself could not have held more than 200 people, and the stage felt quite small as well. The entire set consisted of a couple doors leading into a living room, two couches, a desk, a small liquor table and a few windows. It all seemed quite mediocre to me, and I began to wonder if I might regret buying my ticket by the end of the first act.

Every negative disposition vanished, however, the minute the actors took the stage. Jenny, a perky, unrefined country maid, entered first, and was soon followed by her smart and classy city boyfriend named Randolph. Another person was snooping around the house, and somehow escaped just as the couple entered, but we do not know her name at this point.

Through the dialogue between Jenny and her crafty compatriot, it is revealed that the house belongs to a long dead Mr. Redfax, who died in a car accident a week or so earlier. Jenny also mentions the fact that Mr. Redfax was the prime suspect in a diamond robbery, and he more than likely hid the jewels in the house. They talk about their dreams of stealing the jewels for themselves until they hear the sound of a car out front.

The couple scrambles out of the house just as three women enter from the front. The first is Helen O?Toole, the only realtor in this small New England town, and the other two are future renters. One of them is Crane Hammond, a successful mystery writer, and the other is Kate Bixley, her secretary.

Hammond enters excitedly and barely contains her joy upon seeing the quaint country abode, but Bixley immediately makes it clear that she wishes to return to the bustling streets of New York City. The former basks in the glorious prospect of their one month vacation, while the latter groans over her misfortune. During this time we also meet Vernon Cookley, an elderly, cranky old cab driver, who later turns out to hold several other occupations including town sheriff.

With much ado, the realtor gets the celebrity and her assistant settled, and then leaves them to a nice and peaceful rest. However, the house proves to contain many unforeseen horrors that immediately begin to plague the two tenants.

The first evil manifests in the return of Jenny and her obnoxious personality. She declares that she is in fact there to serve them as the maid of the house. Both Bixley and Hammond are struck by her bubbly speech and incompetent farm-girl background, and Bixley immediately takes a disliking to her.

Not even the pitched terror of Jenny?s voice compares to what Hammond finds buried in the closet. There, hung up on his jacket, is presumably a dead body. Hammond immediately lets out a scream and faints onstage, and when she awakes she finds that she is the only one who saw the body. This becomes problematic when her secretary opens the door to a very empty closet.

Needless to say, this ordeal sends Hammond through a series of events that resembles the novels she writes. This time she finds herself in the very center of the enigma as opposed to her normal position as omniscient writer. She does not quite know how to handle the situation.

Matters become even worse off for her when she is forced to protect her promiscuous friend Lillian Seymour who, although already wed, marries a gentleman by the name of Lyle Rogers. Seymour deems it prudent for her image to say that Rogers is not her husband, but Mrs. Hammond?s husband. Thankfully, Mr. Richard Hammond is off at a conference in Chicago, but for most of the play, Hammond finds herself spinning an intricate (as well as hilarious) web of lies just to cover her friend.

In the play, Hammond is a very individualistic, strong woman who seems quite sure of herself. The sequence of events, however, begins to fluster her and cause her to doubt her capabilities. I think Rachel Martinez, a junior, acted this out perfectly.

All of the actors performed superbly, and I found it hard to choose my favorite, but I really believed Martinez?s portrayal of Hammond. I felt her exasperation over the entire situation, and I found her attempt at composure quite comical when put in contrast to the manic personalities of the other characters.

Somewhere between the middle section of the first act and the beginning of the second I began to become very bored. This arose not from poor acting but rather from poor writing. The play starts well, and ends beautifully, yet I found the middle so dry and uneventful that it nearly ruined the entire production for me.

However, just when I thought the play had lost all momentum, the third act began. I will not endeavor to tell you all that occurs in this final piece, but just know that it consists of nine or ten individuals running around manically in the dark looking for diamonds. It is glorious. It is fantastic. It is unutterably hilarious. This part of the part of the play was truly golden.

If you like comical dialogue and hilarious entrances and exits, this play is perfect for you. Certainly it failed to carry itself through the long and uneventful middle parts, but over all I found myself quite entertained. I laughed; I smiled. I found myself enthralled by a bunch of ludicrous people running around in the dark.

It’s not a piece of literature worthy of any large stage, but it surely serves its purpose as a high school drama. And, for me anyway, that was enough.

On top of that, the play also presented a simple but applicable message for all of us: Do not, under any circumstances, pretend to be married to someone who is not in fact your spouse.

Such fabrications often cause some sort of wild debacle that quickly gets out of hand. Just be honest. Honesty is honorable, and it keeps you out of trouble. And, in the spirit of truth-telling, I am going to honestly say to all of you that this play was delightful, and fun, and out-right hilarious. I highly recommend it to anyone searching for a small diamond of happy laughter.

Exit the Body will be showing this weekend at the Dan Pessano Theater, Oct. 17-19 at 7:30 p.m. These last three days will conclude the production’s six-day run.

For more information regarding dates and showtimes call 559.327.1347 or visit their website.

This author can be reached via Twitter: @JohnathanNyberg. Follow The Feather via Twitter: @thefeather.

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