`Anatomy of a Murder' production a mystery to die for


Arundel Live


The courtroom drama Anatomy of a Murder opens tonight in the recently renovated Bowie Playhouse in Whitemarsh Park, marking the award-winning Bowie Community Theatre's 38th season.

"The theater group wanted to do a mystery, and I prefer to do plays of substance over just a story line," said BCT director Estelle Miller. "I decided if we could find a cast of 16 men for this play that were characters to say something, I would direct it."

Anatomy of a Murder was first a book, published in 1956 and written by Michigan Supreme Court Justice John D. Voelker, under the pen name Robert Traver.

Director Otto Preminger turned the book into a movie starring Jimmy Stewart, George C. Scott and Ben Gazzara in 1959. Elihu Winer adapted the book for the stage in 1964.

In the film, Lt. Frederick Manion, played by Gazzara, admits that he shot Barney Quill, who raped his wife. Manion's lawyer, Paul Biegler (played by Stewart), tries to prove temporary insanity, while prosecuting attorney Claude Dancer (Scott) tries to persuade the jury of Manion's guilt.

In a recent rehearsal, Miller noted that there were "different questions raised by the stage version about the guilt or innocence of the police officer on trial. [In the play], lawyer Biegler is not the saintly character played by Jimmy Stewart in the film. Here we're left wondering about this rape motive for the murder."

Pleased with how well things were going in rehearsal, Miller, of Annapolis, said, "This area has some of the finest and most generous talent. Having worked in theater in New York City, I find this theater family here compares quite favorably in professionalism."

From what was seen at a rehearsal last week, Miller did not overstate. The level of intensity evidenced by lead actors Jose De La Mar of Elkridge, who plays Paul Biegler, and Richard McGraw of Annapolis, who plays prosecutor, was impressive. Without benefit of costumes or scenery, these actors were already creating characters the audience should be fascinated getting to know.

The predominantly Anne Arundel cast features Annapolitan David Thompson playing defendant Lt. Frederick Manion, with his wife, Laura, played by Jodie Calvert of Odenton.

Greg Coale of Pasadena will be seen as Warren Burke and Myron Cramer of Annapolis plays Dr. W. Harcourt Gregory, with Sam DePriest of Lanham cast as Dr. Homer Rashid.

Craig Miller of Severna Park plays Mitch Lodwick, Michael Gilmore plays Judge Weaver and James McDaniel will be seen as Dr. Matthew Smith.

Others in the cast include Craig Mummey as Paquette, Sam Shelton as Parnell, Ted Tuck as Sgt. Durgo, Norman Alt as Grover Gleason and Herschel Klueter as Clovis Pidgeon.

Season subscriptions - $30 and $24 for seniors and students - are available for the three-play season that also includes Catch Me If You Can in February and the comedy Dearly Departed in April and May.

Anatomy of a Murder is running for the next three weekends in Bowie Playhouse, which has been home to the BCT for 20 years. Friday and Saturday performances will be at 8 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.

Individual general admission is $12; seniors and students pay $10. To order call 301-805-0219 or check the Web site at bctheatre.com.

Bowie Playhouse is off Route 3 near U.S. 50.

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