Photo provided 
Thom Johnson (as Lionel) and Georgeanna Teipen (as Margaret Thorne Brent) rehearse for Main Street Productions’ upcoming drama, “Perfect Crime,” opening Friday at Westfield Playhouse.
Photo provided Thom Johnson (as Lionel) and Georgeanna Teipen (as Margaret Thorne Brent) rehearse for Main Street Productions’ upcoming drama, “Perfect Crime,” opening Friday at Westfield Playhouse.

Westfield Playhouse show director Cheryl Fesmire has never spent so much time with actors, dissecting, uncovering and understanding all of the complexities of a play, until “Perfect Crime.”

She knew it would be a complex play when she submitted it, along with two other plays, to the playhouse for the 2018-19 theater season.

The mystery-thriller, by Warren Manzi, opens Friday and continues for three weekends at Westfield Playhouse. 

The play tells the story of Margaret Thorne Brent, a Connecticut psychiatrist and potential cold-blooded killer who may have committed "the perfect crime.”

“It’s very challenging for actors, directors, tech and stage crew,” Fesmire said. “It is a very complicated piece. The sound effects and the Harrison Brent painting, as well as a claustrophobic set, become characters in the play.”

Despite the challenges, she had a fascination that won over. 

Fesmire was intrigued by the script and was drawn to the show because it has run for 32 years off-Broadway with the same actress portraying the character, Margaret, for all of those years.

Plus, Fesmire didn’t know of any other local community theater that has done “Perfect Crime.”

At the Playhouse, there is annually a call-out for directors to submit the productions that they would like to bring to the stage. A program-selection committee reads the submitted scripts, decides the shows they like, then the board votes on the selections to create the season. “We directors usually submit more than one script for consideration,” Fesmire said. For this 2018-19 season, she submitted three scripts, and “Perfect Crime” was the chosen one.

Then it was her job to search for “strong actors who had good chemistry.” 

The audition was well attended, which is always a blessing to a director. “It was challenging choosing my cast from the talented people who auditioned,” she said. “Each actor has the ability to be strong and vulnerable, and each actor relates in different ways to the character of Margaret.”

Fesmire said, “The key to acting in the show lies in relating to the other actors, an ability to be vulnerable and to being able to listen. There are many monologues in this show which are challenging for actors.”

The play features five actors: Georgeanna Teipen as Margaret Thorne Brent, Michael Smiley as Inspector Ascher, Jeremy Teipen as Harrison Brent, Thom Johnson as Lionel and Steven Marsh as David Breuer.

Fesmire has coached actors on the flow of the show, movement and motivation and character development. She reiterated how much time has been spent discussing characters and uncovering the clues given throughout the play, “as to ‘who done it.’” she said, “Audiences have to pay close attention to discover the truth.”

“Since this is Jeremy Teipen’s first time on the boards (stage), we have worked on many basics of acting: movement, volume, speed, character,” she said. “He has a lot of talent and ability and willingness to learn. In real life, Jeremy and Georgeanne Teipen are husband and wife.

Thom Johnson of Westfield is a very talented actor that Fesmire has worked with before. “I find him eager, hardworking and willing to take direction.” This particular role is very different for Thom and stretches him and his abilities. It’s Thom as he has not been seen before,” she said.

One look at the red and black sexy show posters, and you immediately think the show could be a little provocative.

Fesmire, whose show producer is Brandi Davis (who directs the summer youth production and played Olivia Walton in “The Homecoming” in December 2017), said, “We modeled the poster after ones used by the off-Broadway. It is sexy and reflects many facets of the story. Definitely not a play for children.” In fact, the poster reads, “Due to adult language, situations and themes, this play is recommended for ages 18 and older.”

How so?

“Margaret uses her aggressive personality and her sexiness in many ways in her interactions with the other characters.” Fesmire said, the play has “adult themes of murder mostly and sexuality, (with) no overt sexual things except kissing. Some violence.”

Theater-goers should know that “Perfect Crime” is not a predictable or mainstream play. “This play is very much a chess game with power shifting from one character to another throughout each scene,” she said.

Fesmire loves play directing, which she said, “allows me the excitement of bringing a script to life with my vision, adapting technical needs to our theater capabilities.”

She said, “I really like how very different this show is. It is the most challenging production I have undertaken.”

Fesmire likes comedies, dramas and musicals. “I have been blessed to work with many fine people. It is hard to choose favorites, but “The Runner Stumbles,” “Grace & Glorie,” “Home Games,” “Follow the Drinking Gourd” and “The Importance of Being Earnest” are some of her favorites.

She has been involved in community theater for 10 years, after a 30-year hiatus. She has a college degree in speech and drama. She’s president of the board of directors for Center Stage Community Theatre in Lebanon. When she’s not volunteering her time as a director, her days are spent working at the Indiana Historical Society portraying different characters in the exhibits.

-Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com