Purchase Players director Ann Heath usually looks for the laughs in her stage productions. But for the theater group's latest offering, Heath is looking for the gasps.
"Rope," originally a 1929 play that was eventually made into an Alfred Hitchcock movie starring Jimmy Stewart, opens Friday at the Purchase Players' theater, located at 302 W. Water St., as this season's chilling Halloween performance.
Heath is a fan of the 1950s and '60s director of such classics as "North by Northwest," "The Birds" and "Psycho," but her tastes in directing have been considerably lighter fare.
"This is actually against my usual," she said. "I'm usually a comedy director, but I like Hitchcock and mysteries so I thought this would be a fun one to direct."
She did admit that it was a daunting task to shift gears from comedy to thriller.
"I had to figure out if you can't look for the laugh, what am I going to do?" Heath recalled thinking. "That's my usual thing is to make it as funny as possible, but this … murdering someone and stuffing them in a trunk is not the most fun thing."
The premise is set around a pair of young men, Brandon (played by Sonny Dougherty) and Granillo (Patrick Redden), who commit a murder, hide the body in a trunk and then host a dinner party. However one of the guests, a former teacher named Rupert (Richard Hash), keys in on subtle hints and deduces something is amiss.
The play's title describes not just the murder weapon, but just how much the two murderers will "give to hang themselves."
"Rope" is actually based on a real-life 1924 kidnapping and murder of a 14-year-old Chicago boy by two wealthy students, Nathan Leopold Jr. and Richard Loeb. Leopold and Loeb believed they were "intellectually superior" and could carry out the perfect crime. However, the two were eventually caught and imprisoned.
Heath said that idea of "getting away with murder" is completely captured in the story.
"Rupert mentions that people who do these types of murders, they're so conceited (that) they give themselves away. They're so pleased with themselves," she said. "If they'd shut their mouths or not invited anybody over, they could have gotten away with it."
And even though the murder has been committed and the audience knows "whodunit," Heath said the thrill is in trying to catch the clues in the dialogue and see which character will catch them too.
"You have an inside view, you know there's a dead body in the trunk," she said, "but you want to know how is somebody going to figure it out.
"It's a really neat story, but it's a little different," Heath added. "You've got to really listen to what's going on."
Other cast members include Wayne Prentice, Jesse Schreiner, Jess Adams, Rhonda Keeling and Christa-Lauran Hopper.
"Rope" will run Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $9, $11 and $13 and available online at purchaseplayers.com.