Photo provided
Pizza Face Petrillo (Thom Johnson) and Sister Fernando (Joe Wagner) appear in a scene from “Lie, Cheat & Genuflect,” a comedy that opens Friday at Westfield Playhouse.
Photo provided Pizza Face Petrillo (Thom Johnson) and Sister Fernando (Joe Wagner) appear in a scene from “Lie, Cheat & Genuflect,” a comedy that opens Friday at Westfield Playhouse.
It’s a play that offers uproariously funny slapstick humor. It’s a good, solid comedy that offers actors challenging comedic roles and provides audiences a couple of hours of delightful entertainment.
That’s how Noblesville’s Jen Otterman described “Lie, Cheat & Genuflect,” a play opening Friday at Westfield Playhouse, and continuing weekends through Feb. 2. Tickets are still available.
“The show is jammed with funny scenes,” said Otterman, who wouldn’t give away any of the show.
Though, she did, share the plot. “It is a story of greed set to a comedic rhythm,” Otterman said. “Two grandsons, one of whom is in financial trouble from his gambling habits, are trying to con the family lawyer so they can receive their recently departed grandfather’s fortune. Along the way, a mobster, who is chasing them down for a loan payment, his secretary and two seemingly unknown women enter the scene to create foibles and fun.”
Otterman loves comedies, and she’s counting on the audiences to love this one. “I hope the audiences are able to set the woes of daily life on the shelf for a couple of hours and enjoy the big belly laughs of nonsensical comedy,” she said. “It is just the ticket for forgetting the state of the world today and the dreariness of our gray skies.”
She said comedic acting is much more difficult than dramatic acting. “It has to be precise. If is is overacting, it will kill the comedy, and if it is under acting, it will stifle the humor. It has to hit the mark,” Otterman said. “Timing and tempo is also incredibly important so actors have to be fully memorized so they can pick up the cues promptly ...Comedy depends on natural, quick, glib line delivery.” In addition, she said, “farce requires a lot of physical humor so actors have to have complete control of the body and the body’s positions.”
For most of her shows, Otterman designs her sets. This show is no exception. Although, she was fortunate to have two master carpenters, Stephen Matters, who works exclusively for Footlite Musicals, and his comrade, Bruce Edelman of Footlite, who built the set in four days. “I spent another week painting and decorating it. Since the set is an old Victorian mansion, I was able to draw from the 100-year-old Victorian home where I grew up,” she said. “The search for Victorian furniture was a bit of a challenge, but The Belfry aided me with a chair, and I was able to buy a lovely settee on Facebook Marketplace. My favorite look on the set is the plate rail and the paint rail.”
Otterman, a retired teacher from Hamilton Southeastern, said two of the play’s actors are former theater kids of her from back at HSE days. Brock Francis, one of the actors, also worked with her in “Wait Until Dark” Another former student is Laura Jordan. “So happy to be working with them again,” Otterman said.
Several of her actors have worked with her before at Westfield Playhouse, including Susan Hill of Noblesville, in “Social Security (which earned two Encore Association awards),” Nikki Lynch of Noblesville, in “Picnic (which earned seven Encore nominations),” Thom Johnson of Westfield in “Social Security,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (at The Belfry Theatre and which earned nine Encore awards, including Best Director) and, of course, Chris Otterman, her husband, who also was in “Cuckoo’s Nest.” Joe Wagner is the only cast member she hasn’t worked with prior to this show. “I have just admired his work in other shows where I have seen him work,” she said. “My cast is a delight … all very talented and very hard workers.”
Otterman is originally from Frankfort, where she worked extensively from a young age at The Red Barn Summer Theatre. “I have been involved in theater since I was 15,” said the Noblesville resident of 36 years and who has more than 50 years of theatrical experience. At HSE, she was a high school teacher for almost 30 years, teaching public speaking, four levels of acting, creative writing and advanced placement composition. Otterman, who has a son and a daughter and five grandchildren, has directed more than 50 plays at HSE. She was one of the authors for the Department of Education’s state standards for theater.
Westfield Playhouse is the first place that Otterman directed plays after retiring from teaching at HSE.
So it’s no wonder that she feels a little sentimental directing the playhouse’s next show, which will be her last show there before a new Westfield Playhouse opens later this year in downtown Westfield, where construction is moving right along.
“When locking up alone after a long day of set work, I feel a wave of sadness that I will not direct in the building again,” Otterman said. “There is a certain charm and ambiance to it… I hold a special place in my heart for it.”
Despite the playhouse’s lack of running water and indoor restrooms (yes - patrons use portable outdoor toilets), she will be sad to leave the playhouse.
But she said, “The new theater will be a blessing with its indoor plumbing, especially on a cold winter’s night, and access to water for washing out paint brushes and room to navigate in a real backstage that has wing space.”
She won’t direct next season at Westfield, but she is off to direct in 2021 for Noblesville Parks, Mud Creek Players and again at The Belfry Theatre. “But I will, hopefully, remain on Westfield’s board of directors and maybe be able to direct again in future seasons.”
-Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.