A murder mystery and love story combine in “Earth and Sky,” a thrilling, film noir-esque play that is coming to the Whidbey Playhouse this weekend.
Written by Douglas Post, the play follows Sarah McKeon, a librarian and poet whose boyfriend of ten weeks, David Ames, is found dead early on in the performance. The police think that David was involved in illicit activities including kidnapping and murder which ultimately led to his untimely death, but Sarah thinks there is no way the David she knew would have been capable of such things. She conducts her own investigation to discover the truth.
David Thuet stars as David Ames in not only his first leading role but in his first role on stage. Thuet has never acted before — not that the audience will be able to tell. He originally auditioned for a much smaller part of a gangster but director Kevin Meyer decided to cast him as the leading man.
Since David is murdered at the beginning of the play, almost all of his scenes are flashbacks.
“I was coerced,” Thuet said with a laugh when asked why he auditioned. His wife, Abby Thuet, had performed at the playhouse in the past and encouraged her husband to get involved in theater. Ironically, in “Earth and Sky” she plays his ex-girlfriend.
“I have to say, watching him falling in love and making out with another woman has added a whole new level to this experience that I had not anticipated,” she said, before adding on a more serious note that she’s enjoyed seeing her husband discover how fun it is to be on stage and make a whole new community of theater friends.
The director, Kevin Meyer, selected the play because he once acted in a production of it and since then, had always wanted to put his own stamp on it.
“I like the fact that it’s a very female-centric heroine, you know, that leads the charge rather than a detective,” he said.
Throughout the play, Sarah is trying to figure out if she put her trust in the right person and if David is who she thought he was.
Meyer said that anyone who likes a good mystery – and anyone who likes being in love – should see the show.
“It’s sort of a film noir on stage and (there is) good acting, good technical aspects to the show,” he said. “I think we pulled off a pretty good production.”
Nate Edmiston plays Julius Gatz, a classic gangster and one of the villains of the play.
“It’s fun to bring a bad guy to life and actually make him more than just a two-dimensional, mustache-twisting guy with the girl on the train tracks, so he’s got a depth and story and motivations,” he said.
Edmiston said the playhouse has a great “actor family” to be a part of.
“We’re very, very forgiving and welcoming to people who’ve never been on stage before,” he said.
Rusty Chapin plays a gangster with a Russian accent or “a bad guy in a good suit,” as he described him. This is also his first time on stage. He said his favorite part of being in the play has been the friendships he made with his fellow castmates.
“The thing I like the most is the connection and the camaraderie,” Chapin said. “It’s not something in my adult life that I experience very regularly. You don’t get that kind of closeness since high school or since college.”
Wesley Moran, the Whidbey News-Times’ own marketing representative, plays Detective H.E. Weber, an old-school, rough around the edges cop. This is Moran’s first show at the playhouse but he was in the technical crew for “Grease” and has been involved in theater since he was a teenager.
Moran described his character as a “sleaze” which has been both difficult and fun for him to play.
“I don’t like him as a person,” he laughed. “But I like him as a character because he’s so distinctly different from who I am as a person.”
Anna Schenck stars as Sarah, the somewhat naive but also intelligent and determined lead character. The last play Schenck did at the Playhouse was about seven years ago. She moved back to her hometown of Oak Harbor after her time in the Army and wanted to return to theater.
“I wanted to do something that was creative and I liked the twist and turns this play had,” she said. “It just intrigued me.”
Schenck said her role is challenging to play only because she relates so much to the character.
“It’s almost like I’m playing myself in some ways and that’s weird, so to make her bigger and more vibrant has been kind of a challenge,” she said.
“Earth and Sky” is full of plot twists that will keep audience members guessing until the very end.