Six talented actors fought each other to create a wild, funny play at Pan American Summer Stock.
“The Butler Did It” ran the usual four summer performances in Edinburg. It deserved a longer run, but might cause shocks, if seen by lingering Winter Texans and Valley old-timers. Even an old reviewer blushed at times.
Veronica L. Navarro and Mike Salinas, the co-directors, built a sizzling show that might have been banned in the Rio Grande Valley years ago. They made the comedy work with wonderful tricks and timing. Their casting proved superb to make this murder-comedy click.
The play-within-a-play mocks stage-struck actors who will do anything to perform on Broadway. This includes murder, back-stabbing, insincere love-making, etc. It worked for Shakespeare. This updates it, four centuries later.
Just six actors all did professional jobs that made the appreciative audience gasp. The murders looked realistic but quickly caused laughter. Nobody appeared to have fainted in the audience.
The first four actors to appear all had “Butler” in their stage names. The authors, Walter and Peter Marks, cleverly made each cast member a suspect. Apparently this never made a film because it was too slick for a movie, but ideal for the stage.
John Flores stole the show as the show’s frantic director facing opening night. He lies, threatens, and tries to murder his unruly cast. Nearly every stage director must consider doing that sometime. He shocks everyone.
The two women in the cast, Cassie Dean and Adriana Garcia, are knockouts in several scenes. Dean wears a weird costume (dating from Shakespeare’s time, perhaps) plus a contorted voice and one of the stage’s strangest ways of walking, never explained, but show-stopping.
Garcia likewise stops the show with her unexpected ferocity. She startles everyone with her outbursts, apparently common among actresses fighting to keep their lines intact, but rarely seen on the final script.
Issac Garza and Rick Mireles, both playing butlers in “The Butler Did It”, also share weird roles, as very strong murder suspects. They play with gusto and comic menace.
Fernando Olivarez plays the detective called to solve the murder, who looks and acts the part, until more clues are found. He changes his role spectacularly, like the rest of a fine cast.
Not to reveal the shocking ending, go see “The Butler Did It” whenever you can, some summer or Little Theater. Be prepared to scream, faint, or at least applaud.
Alas, there will be no plays at UTPA until “Of Mice and Men,” a much different show, in Edinburg on Oct. 14. Also catch “The Red and the Blue,” “Noises Off,” and “Much Ado About Nothing” (Shakespeare) later in next season. UTPA remains the Valley’s best stage attraction, however far out this lively crew will sail us.