Kat Thompson, a Moffat County High School senior, puts the finishing touches on her costume before a dress rehearsal for “Rehearsal for Murder” on Monday night at the high school. The play opens at 7 p.m. Thursday at the MCHS auditorium, 900 Finley Lane.

Photo by Bridget Manley

Kat Thompson, a Moffat County High School senior, puts the finishing touches on her costume before a dress rehearsal for “Rehearsal for Murder” on Monday night at the high school. The play opens at 7 p.m. Thursday at the MCHS auditorium, 900 Finley Lane.

MCHS spring play offers dramatic suspense with 1930s flair

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If you go ...

What: “Rehearsal for Murder”

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday

Where: Moffat County High School auditorium, 900 Finley Lane

Cost: $5 per person

— Tickets are available at the high school. For more information, call the school at 824-7036.

Quotable

“And I felt like this year, I had a group of students that could handle it.”

— Heather Dahlberg, Moffat County High School theater and choir teacher, on her cast for this year’s spring play, “Rehearsal for Murder”

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Skooter Byrnes, a Moffat County High School junior portraying playwright Alex Dennison, leans in to speak to sophomore Derek Maiolo, portraying David Mathews, during a dress rehearsal Monday for “Rehearsal for Murder.” The play features a relatively small cast of 15 actors and is set in late 1930s New York City.

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Moffat County High School sophomores Marina Mecham, left, and Derek Maiolo — playing Monica Welles and David Mathews, respectively — rehearse Monday night in the high school auditorium. The play features vintage costumes, including clothing MCHS theater teacher Heather Dahlberg inherited from her grandmother, she said.

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Skooter Byrnes, playing playwright Alex Dennison, stands silhouetted in front of other actors on the stage Monday night at the Moffat County High School auditorium. “Rehearsal for Murder” gave Heather Dahlberg, MCHS theater and choir teacher, a chance to work with a smaller group of committed and mature student actors, she said.

The setting: An empty stage at the Palace Theatre on Broadway.

The time: the late 1930s.

Exactly one year ago, Monica Welles, a complex prima donna, was found dead after her performance on this very stage.

Police concluded she took her own life.

But her fiancée, playwright Alex Dennison, suspects otherwise.

He’s concocted a plan to root out whom among the major players from a year ago, both on stage and behind the scenes, may have had a hand in Monica’s death.

The play’s the thing in “Rehearsal for Murder,” a two-act mystery the Moffat County High School Theatre Department will bring to the stage at 7 p.m. Thursday at the high school auditorium, 900 Finley Lane.

Other performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Heather Dahlberg, MCHS theater and choir teacher, is a fan of mysteries, she said, and she’s been waiting for the right group of actors to produce this kind of play.

“To do a mystery, especially one like this, you kind of have to have a cast who can handle it,” she said before a dress rehearsal Monday night at the high school.

“And I felt like this year, I had a group of students that could handle it.”

The play’s relatively small cast of 15 actors allowed Dahlberg to work closely with students who are serious about theater, she said.

It also enabled her to delve deeper into the more nuanced components of acting.

“I got to work a lot more on acting theory with them and technique versus just getting them to memorize their lines,” Dahlberg said.

Marina Mecham, a sophomore, plays Monica Welles, who makes frequent appearances in flashback scenes throughout the play.

She’s played in several MCHS productions, including the fall 2011 musical “Footloose,” but nothing like “Rehearsal for Murder.”

“It’s really written different because it’s ... a play within a play,” she said. “…It’s really intelligently written but it’s really different.”

Minutes before dress rehearsal began Monday, students were making final adjustments on lush costumes designed to invoke late 1930s New York City.

As other actors gave one last glance in the backstage mirror, Dustin Martin waited onstage in an outfit that included a black dress jacket and pants, tortoiseshell glasses and cummerbund.

His character is a “very flamboyant kind of person,” the MCHS junior said, moving his hands expressively as he spoke.

Already, he was channeling his onstage persona, Broadway director Lloyd Andrews.

The play has comedic moments, yet he believes its nail-biting elements will be the biggest draw to audiences, he said.

So who killed Monica Welles?

That remains a mystery — at least for now.

Tickets for the play cost $5 and can be purchased at MCHS. For more information, call the school at 824-7036.

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