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Sharp turns ahead

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From right, Darci Hendrickson, as Karen Clayton, introduces Joanne Thompson, as Nurse Pepper, to Ellen Clayton, played by Samantha Page, and Jenny the housekeeper, played by Debbi Stevens, during the rehearsal of “House on the Cliff” by George Batson. The play will open at the Schultz Theatre in New Market on Friday. — Andrew Thayer/Daily

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Stevens points to the lake to show Thompson where a boat sank killing its passengers years earlier. — Andrew Thayer/Daily

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Jake DuVall-Early, as Dr. Corey Phillips, talks with Page about her character’s disabilities. — Andrew Thayer/Daily

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Sean Prunka, as Dr. Lane, rehearses with Hendrickson. — Andrew Thayer/Daily

'House on the Cliff' is mysterious from the start

By Josette Keelor -- jkeelor@nvdaily.com

NEW MARKET -- Schultz Theatre's "House on the Cliff," a house on a lake in Michigan that once marked the last stop along the Underground Railroad, has its own mysterious past.

The house's history lends itself to being a place where bad things have happened, said director Yvonne Owens.

Its residents are cold and secretive and its not-so-secret passageway could be hiding anything.

"It's a mystery, like in the vein of Agatha Christie," said Owens, who warns of twists and turns ahead.

"Everybody is suspicious. They could all be the killer," she said.

The murder doesn't happen until halfway through the play, Owens said, but the suspicious behavior begins from the start.

Six members make up the ensemble cast: a young woman in a wheelchair, her stepmother, two doctors, a nurse and a housekeeper.

"Everybody's a suspect," Owens said.

For instance, why is the young woman wheelchair-bound when even her doctor cannot figure out what ailment seems to prevent her from being able to walk?

Ellen, played by Samantha Page, was in a car accident that claimed the life of her father, and now she lives alone with her stepmother, played by Darci Hendrickson.

Then there's the young doctor, played by Jake DuVall-Early.

"He just kind of comes out of nowhere and falls in love with this woman in a wheelchair," Owens said.

The housekeeper, played by Debbi Stevens, has been with the family since before the father died, but the nurse, played by Joanne Thompson, has a past no one really knows about.

"You know something's going to happen, and then it does, but you don't know who did it," Owens said.

The cast members, like the characters they play, bring various past experiences to their roles in "House on the Cliff."

Many of the cast are pretty new to acting or to the stage at Schultz, Owens said, but she's impressed with their talent.

DuVall-Early, a junior at James Madison University double-majoring in theater and filmmaking is "outstanding," Owens said. "He is just a phenomenal actor."

Sean Prunka, as the old doctor, and Hendrickson are both new to Schultz, Owens said.

This is Page's third play at Schultz and Thompson's third role ever.

And Stevens? "She's mostly been a theater mom because her son is quite talented, too." Her son T.J. was in last year's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

"A lot of them were in 'A Dickens of a Carol,'" she said.

Owens has been in most of Schultz's productions since playing the ex-wife in "Shrunken Heads."

"I was a fancy woman with a fancy dog," she said. Next she played an ugly stepsister in "Cinderella" and Hippolyta in "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

A former English and drama teacher, she now also directs the youth theater at Schultz.

"I just love making a difference in the lives of children and older adults."

if you go

Schultz Theatre will present "House on the Cliff," by George Batson, at 9357 N. Congress St. in New Market, for one weekend only, at 7 p.m. on Feb. 24 and 25 and at 3 p.m. on Feb. 26. For more information, contact the theater at 740-9119 or at www.schultztheatre.com.

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