Houghton Middle School presents 2 tales of terror

HOUGHTON – The Houghton Middle School Drama Department is at it again and this time they’re putting on two different shows – “Penny Dreadfuls” and “Acting Can Be Murder,” both of which contain a sinister plotline.

“Penny” tells the story of a gang of orphans and runaways run by a man known only as The Professor. They steal and pickpocket, bringing their goods to a pawn shop run by The Professor’s partners in crime, Dorthea Sprockett and Bethesda Nightsoil. Prowling about the stage is the mysterious Mad Aggie, whose strange, poetic musings foreshadow a tragic outcome.

“Acting Can Be Murder” tells the story of Dolores Gordon, the always-an-understudy-never-the-lead member of a community theater group. When Dolores decides the only way to get the lead role in a play is to murder the lead actress, things begin to spiral out of control.

Ashley Laitinen, 12, plays Mad Aggie, a mysterious character whose real identity is revealed at the end of the play. Laitinen said she enjoyed playing a creepy person and practiced for the role by trying to scare her friends.

In the role of Dolores Gordon is Mary Pat Massopust. Massopust said that she’s had a lot of fun playing a character that she doesn’t relate to.

“I’m playing a lady in her late 40s that killed someone and is going crazy,” Massopust said. “It’s fun to work with something new and fun to work with all of my friends.”

Massopust thinks that audiences will have fun with the fact that even though it’s a mystery, there’s an aspect of comedy intertwined with it.

“I think they’ll enjoy that a lot and I think they’ll enjoy that there are lots of different characters that all have their own story,” Massopust said.

Director Dave Crowley said he chose “Penny Dreadfuls” and “Acting Can Be Murder” because of the quality of the writing.

“Something that has good dialogue that the kids can actually do some acting with,” Crowley said.

Because there are two separate plays with two different sets, Crowley said working between the two has been a bit of a challenge, but one that’s been overcome.

“It’s time consuming,” he said.

Crowley has often said that he doesn’t want to do drama that’s geared just toward middle school students – he wants to do drama for everyone.

“(The plays) challenge the kids. …These are not your typical middle school plays,” Crowley said. “It’s a whole different story.”

“Penny Dreadfuls” and “Acting Can Be Murder” open Friday and run through Sunday. Showtimes for Friday and Saturday are at 7 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for students and seniors.