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DECATUR — Secret chambers, trap lids and hidden panels can be suspenseful, but also funny.

Theatre 7 puts live theater to the test during their last show of the season, “The Murder Room.” The cast will bring the play to life April 6 through 8 and 13 through 15 at the Decatur Civic Center.

The play revolves around the disappearance of Edgar Hollister. “But we don’t know if he dies,” said director Carl Sebens, adding more suspense to the play.

Hollister’s new wife and her boyfriend plan to kill the rich old man; however, his daughter and her fiance’ complicate their plans. All of the escapades take place in a mansion filled with trap doors and hidden stairways.

“The guy that built the house was real crafty and made secret passages,” said Scott Magruder said of Hollister.

As Theatre 7’s set builder, Magruder had to follow the script as closely as the actors. “I went by the design they gave me, but I had to make some decisions on my own,” he said.

Before he builds a set, Magruder studies the script for specifics, including the time period and social status. Magruder also takes into consideration the actors’ sizes and abilities when building hidden passages.

The play’s humor comes from the physical action taking place among the actors. “And silly, silly dialogue,” said the show’s producer Jan Hooten.

She describes the play as a spoof on British murder mystery spoofs. “It is a farce on a farce,” she said. “Decatur loves a good mystery and a good comedy.”

The cast consists of six actors, but a large crew is behind the scenes as well. The crew will operate many devices including moving photos, hidden compartments and shifting furniture.

Emily Steele, stage manager, said the show’s set is the biggest of the season. “We use all of the stage,” she said.

Timing and delivery is crucial to the comedy show. This was a draw to first-time Theatre 7 cast member Kade Thoms.

Thoms, 18, plays Barry Draper, the fiance. He performed in plays while in high school, but found the Decatur theatre to be a group of artists prepared many types of acting. “In high school, especially in a small town like Cerro Gordo where I went, everyone has their limits to what they are willing to do for a show,” Thoms said. “These people are pros and this is what they do. They work at a higher caliber.”

According to assistant director Kathy Zientara, the show has intricate details. “There are a lot of pratfalls that occur on the set,” she said.

The stage crew is crucial for this show with two stage managers as well others specifically for maneuvering the hidden doors and other furniture. “It is a prop-heavy show,” Steele said. “So we have a lot of backstage people.”

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"Together Decatur" Columnist and Food and Drink Reporter

“Together Decatur” columnist and food and drink reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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