Drama Devils present annual dinner theater

“I’m a matador of love, baby,” Bill Wiley, played by Aidan McGuire, tells the women arguing about him on the set of soap opera “The Bold and the Young,” part of the production within a production at this year’s Evanston High School dinner theater. (HERALD PHOTO/Sheila McGuire)

EVANSTON — It’s a tumultuous night on the set of “The Bold and the Young.” The long-running soap opera with plummeting ratings is on the brink of being canceled. Veteran stars John Burke and Cybil Dane spend their time making demands and arguing over former plotlines. 

Young actor Bill Wiley can’t seem to stop himself from canoodling with the female cast and crew, and rising star Tyler Tripodo is constantly on the phone with his agent. Actress Amy White wants to change the script, arguing with Oli the director about whether her character would ever say the line, “Their chicken is substandard.” 

Perky new actress Danielle Farris is just in awe of the entire situation, while new intern Keri tries desperately to cozy up to virtually everyone on the set. Actress Lily Baumgartner is all too eager to tell everyone about her sessions with her therapist. 

In the midst of the arguing and discord, Miles the producer shows up to make one last effort to get everyone to film a solid episode, telling them they have been locked on the set and must have the show filmed by morning, or else. 

Over the next few hours the director and several cast members will end up dead, as actor Morris Nyborg tries in vain to get everyone to focus on catching a killer while the others continue to film the soap — and step into new roles as people die — around the dead bodies. 

Such is the plot of “The Bold, the Young and the Murdered,” by Don Zolidis, the play presented by the Evanston High School Drama Devils during dinner theater on two consecutive weekends on Feb. 21-23 and Feb. 28-March 2. The audience was seated on stage in the EHS auditorium, where cast members in character interacted with diners prior to the play and during intermission. 

The hilarious production had the audience laughing loudly during all six full-house performances. There were two completely different casts for the show, with one cast performing the first week and another the second week. Each cast brought something different with the various actors tackling their roles a bit differently. 

Logan Dover and Sam Russell both played actor Morris Nyborg, playing the soap character of Jake Strong, with growing desperation when no one seems interested in solving the murders. Aidan McGuire and Beckham Carver played “matador of love” Bill Wiley, while also playing soap character patch-eyed Sebastian Strong, to loud laughs from the audience. 

Karsten Heyrend and Khanet Kanhawek both tackled the role of actor Tyler Tripodo, playing soap character Dr. William Bradley, with over-the-top enthusiasm that had audience members in stitches with their repeated outbursts over lost cell phone service and efforts to go off-script to create scenes for a personal highlight reel. 

Tommy Ferrens and Brendan Davenport each had a unique take on veteran soap star John Burke, playing soap villain Valencio di Carpathio, with Burke’s constant demands for soup and di Carpathio’s monologue about becoming evil following a run-in with a “large rodent” at Disneyworld as a child. 

Annellie Beachell and Maya Angwin were actress Amy White, who was later revealed to be an undercover FBI agent, as she argued over lines and over Bill with young actress Danielle Farris, played by Elizabeth Rogers and T’ea Medina-Cox. Students Sheridan Durrant and Heidi Barton played staple soap character Mona Jeffries, played by actress Cybil Dane, who repeatedly confused the plot of the soap with events taking place on set. 

The increasingly preposterous and outlandish plot of the soap opera is matched by the increasingly overdone acting of its stars, as babies switched at birth, secret identities, kidnapping by pirates, plastic surgery, alien invasion, kidney theft, sex changes and more are woven into the action and dialogue. 

Oli the director, played by Lexie Andrews and Job Anderson, was the first to die. Following a brief period of concern and some high-pitched screaming by Bill, stage manager Kaitlin, played by Chandalin Curtis and Kylee Robinson, was all too happy to take over director duties and return to filming. 

Lily Baumgartner, playing the eclectic Sequoiya and played by EHS students Bailey Bettinson and Chey Daniels, staggered on stage with a knife in her back. After some heated discussion about whether there was such a thing as a “slow-acting knife,” it was back to filming until Bill was shot shortly before intermission. 

Prior to the beginning of the play the audience was served dinner of potato soup, salad, dinner rolls and pork sirloin roast with gravy and mixed vegetables, prepared by the Evanston High School culinary students and served by students also in character. At intermission dessert of chocolate brownies with strawberries was served, while audience members were able to cast their vote for which character they believed to be the murderer. 

Although Morris insisted all along the new intern Keri, played by Hannah Linford and Josie Dennis, must be the killer, nearly everyone else on the set of the soap came under suspicion, including producer Miles, played by Ardi Brahaj and Jordan Peace, and Brooke the camerawoman, played by Jennifer Barnes and Grace Lester. 

Keri managed to work her way up from intern to stage manager to playing the role of Sequoiya when Lily was murdered to donning an eye patch and going into an impromptu scene about a sex change following Bill’s murder before finally being definitively revealed as the killer. 

The production by the EHS Drama Devils was directed by high school theater director Erin Russell and co-directed by student Isaac Gonzalez as his senior project. Not only did Russell and the students present the play, but everyone involved pitched in and creatively handled it when attendance was well above what was anticipated and it literally became standing room only on the stage.

The next dramatic production at Evanston High School will be the annual musical, which this year will be “The Addams Family,” in the EHS auditorium during the first week of May.

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