Dinner theatre will blend comedy with thrills

PLAINVIEW - Combine a New York pet shop and a murder mystery and what do you get? At Wayland Baptist University, you get The Artificial Jungle, the next production of the Wayland theatre department. The play will be performed as a dinner theatre on Feb. 27 and 28 and March 4, 5, and 6.

Dr. Marti Runnels, theatre director at Wayland, said the play is an interesting blend of a thriller with a comic edge.

"It's a combination of The Postman Always Rings Twice and Little Shop of Horrors," he said. "In other words, it's a pretty crazy little show."

Runnels said the play has a film noir quality to it, but with the setting of a pet shop and the animals to deal with, the comedy comes through. The play was written by Charles Ludlum, whom Runnels said founded the Ridiculous Theatre Company, giving another clue to the play's feel. The set for the production, designed by WBU technical director Chris Moore, will have a tropical feel to it.

"It's kind of a cartoon version of a thriller," Runnels adds.

The cast combines newcomers and Wayland theatre veterans. Kelley Dunn, a theatre minor from Bledsoe, will play Roxanne Nurdiger. Kelley appeared in the fall production of Shorts , a series of short plays, but this will be her first role in a major production. Billy Boone, a senior theatre major from Abilene, will play Chester Nurdiger. Boone is a familiar face to Wayland theatergoers, having been in nearly every production since coming to the university.

Sophomore Jennifer Riley of Plainview, another WBU theatre veteran, will play Mrs. Nurdiger, Chester's mother. Riley's brother, Craig Huckeby of Plainview, who appeared in Shorts in the fall, will be making his first major production appearance as Zachary Slade. Sophomore Doug Warren of Pampa, who appeared in Shorts and in the fall production of Fools, will round out the cast as Frankie Spinelli.

Crew leaders for the production include Tim Fisher as stage manager, Chris Stegall as set crew head, Milea Simpson as light crew head, Jennifer Rutherford as sound crew head, Lisa Angel as makeup crew head, Desi Pharis as publicity crew head and Kelley Dunn as costume crew head.

Dinner for the production will begin at 7 p.m. on the stage of Harral Auditorium. The show will begin at 8 p.m. across the hall in the Harral Studio Theatre. Tickets are $15 for the dinner and show. Paid reservations are required for the dinner theatre, with patrons having the option of bringing by payment or reserving by phone with a credit card. For reservations, contact the Box Office at 291-1089.

As part of their community service project, the theatre department is collecting food for Faith in Sharing House at each night of the production. Patrons bringing a grocery bag of nonperishable food items will receive a $4 discount on their ticket (one bag per person).