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“Death by Dessert” A Foodie’s tale to die for!

By William Beverly, Ph.D.

LA VETA- The Spanish Peaks Players produced their humorous rendition of “Death by Dessert” this past weekend in La Veta.  With smiling success, this humorous play came to life at the Francisco Center for the Performing Arts this past Friday, Saturday and Sunday amidst Dave Middleton’s Fresh Oregano, Italian Sausages, Salads, Wine and lots of Focaccia by Kit Pogue.

    Get this!  “You are in New York’s Little Italy.”  “It’s dinner time, and you’re invited to a meal so good, it’s to die for!”  There was drama, comedy, mystery… and lots of great food.

    This interactive play was directed by Coral Anderson and Debby Blouin and starred Maria Wyland as Maria Rosetti, the recently departed, yet humorous landlord who takes the audience through a tasty tale of murder and laughter.  Primary supporting roles were played by Garrett Sheldon as Don Donnaduce and Yvonne Headrick as Donna Duccedonni.  Yes, there is lots of play on words here.

    The rest of the cast of 14 each played significant, largely comedic and somewhat stereotypical roles, accents, hand gestures and names such as Nino (played by Mickey Villella), Nina (Ellen Wyland), Frankie (Matt Dobbs), Louie (Shane Clouse), Francie (Mitzi Keairns), Louise (Mary White), Nonno (Mac Christie) and Nonna (Athena Henninger).  And take it from me, one oughta never underestimate the importance of the Bustrons, Zane Sternberg and MaKenna Parker.

    Off-stage (i.e., hair, makeup, sound, lights, construction etc.) support was provided by Sher Clouse, Jamie Gallagher, Debby Blouin, Zane Sternberg, Terri Krug, Patrick Sternberg, Heather Craft, Dick Anderson, Brian How, and Casey Campbell as well as many of the above mentioned multi-talented stage actors and business contributors such as Charlie’s Market and La Veta True Value.

    As the play unfolds, the audience is served delectable hors d′oeuvres, but they don′t just sit back and watch; each person must cast their vote for whodunit!  While the attending audience is eventually served a nightcap of reality about who actually committed the play’s murder; those who failed to attend will just have to wait for that tiny bit of info.  It’s like, leave the cannoli and take the cake – ok?

    I asked Vermont writer, Nathan Hartswick what he might have been trying to do with this project, besides making us laugh with hunger and he replied:

    “I can’t say I was going for anything specific – I wrote the play for a friend of mine who runs a junior high drama program, and the goal was mostly to create a large number of fun characters for the kids to play.  I thought the idea of transposing a Romeo & Juliet style feud into juxtaposing Italian restaurants was a fun one.  I also try hard in my writing to not “dumb things down for kids” – Death by Dessert works best when the pacing is brisk and the transitions happen smoothly – kids can do this as readily as adults if they have the proper direction and practice.  Oh, and the narrator character is based on/named for my aunt.”

    Clearly, judging from the jovial smiles, reactions and outbursts of the 50-plus audience, largely made up of 50-plussers – ok… let’s say 30-plussers, it looks like Hartswick succeeded.  I mean – there were kids acting like adults and adults acting like… well.  It’s a great play!  And well done by the Spanish Peaks Players!

    “Death by Dessert” is a wonderful and compelling audience participation foodie play by Nathan Hartswick, who has been known for writing “everything from scripts and stories to music and marketing.”  According to his website at http://www.vermontwriter.com/index.html/, Hartswick’s resume also includes teaching, music, web publishing, directing, and stand up comedy.

    This enjoyable play seems characteristic of Hartswick’s work.  One can find a source for lots of laughs out loud by browsing Hartswick’s official blog full of humor columns at http://nhartswick.wordpress.com/humorcolumns/.  This site offers critical and satirical essays such as “Mealtime for Hitler” and “The Zen Guide to Parenting.”  One of the qualities of Hartswick’s work is his ability to strike directly on the head of the nail, while also making one laugh.  That takes talent.

    The Spanish Peaks Players have more in store for community folk and tourists alike in the near future.  “Dearly Departed,” produced by John Ashton, is coming up on Friday and Saturday (April 23 and 24 at 7 pm).  “Headin for the Hills” by La Veta High’s Senior Class is coming up May 5th and 6th.  And “Murder on the Train: Double Trouble in Twin Peaks” rolls into town on June 4th, 5th, and 6th.  There′s lots more in store!  Go to www.lavetatheater.org for more information.