It could be curtains for college theatre professor Nicky Abbondanza. With dead bodies popping up all over campus, Nicky must use his drama skills to figure out who is playing the role of murderer before it is lights out for Nicky and his colleagues. Complicating matters is Nicky’s huge crush on Noah Oliver, a gorgeous assistant professor in his department, who may or may not be involved with a cocky graduate assistant…and is also the top suspect for the murders! You will be applauding and shouting Bravo for Joe Cosentino’s fast-paced, side-splittingly funny, edge-of-your-seat, delightfully entertaining novel. Curtain up!
Joe Cosentino is the author of An Infatuation (Dreamspinner Press), Paper Doll the first Jana Lane mystery (Whiskey Creek Press), and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (Eldridge Plays and Musicals). He has appeared in principal acting roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. His one-act plays, Infatuation and Neighbor, were performed in New York City. He wrote The Perils of Pauline educational film (Prentice Hall Publishers). Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. His upcoming novels are Drama Muscle the second Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press), A Shooting Star (Dreamspinner Press novella), A Home for the Holidays (Dreamspinner Press holiday novella), and Porcelain Doll the second Jana Lane mystery.
Excerpt: Surrounded by darkness, I sat tensely watching as a young, beautiful man lay on the floor with blood dripping off his six-pack abs. I held my breath. Another muscular young man stood over the first and looked down with a vengeful gaze and devious smirk. My heart pounded as he strutted through the quiet street in his long flowing cape, weaving from corpse to corpse. His knife, erect, poised. “The Lord is vengeful and strong in wrath. And revenge is oh so sweet,” he said.
“Blackout then lights up!”
Tyler, the technical theatre graduate assistant running the lighting board, hit a button, and our Treemeadow College theatre once again sported its Victorian proscenium, cream-colored walls, maple wood wainscoting, bronze wall sconces, and ruby red stage curtain.
Sitting behind the director’s desk (actually a wooden plank temporarily set up in the center of the audience seating area) I scribbled a last note before shouting, “Good work, everyone! Please get out of costume and make-up as quickly as possible and join me in the first two rows of the house for notes.”
Students scurried about: the actors off the stage; the technicians behind the set securing lighting and prop pieces.
Since it is tech week for my show, I have been working in our Edwardian style theatre every evening alongside our workaholic technical director. Tyler Thompson is our technical theatre professor’s graduate assistant, who like all good technical directors, eats, sleeps, breathes, and basically lives in our Scene Shop behind the stage. Standing at five feet tall with mountainous shoulders, a broad back, powerful arms, thick hands, and stick legs, Tyler rules over all things sound, lights, projections, set pieces, and props at Treemeadow College. When he leaves, we will be at a total loss to find or do anything technical in our theatre.
Sets for plays used to consist of wooden flats screwed together to create the walls of a room or a slide projection of a building. Nowadays no set is worth its weight in a Tony Award if it doesn’t include moving film projections of farmland, urban settings, fireworks, or whatever exterior is called for in a given scene.
“I’ll fix the video of the street scene for tomorrow night, Nicky.” Tyler slumped in a chair next to me as the familiar smell of pepperoni, his staple food, and sawdust stung my nose. He wore his usual techie attire: a soiled white T-shirt under frayed overalls above worn workboats. This look was accented by a gold cross around his neck, tattoos on his arms (like an illustrated book with words, numbers, and pictures), and long, stringy, unwashed hair. Tyler scratched at his beard, a result of him not having shaved (or washed) since we started tech. “I also want to fix the sound cue for the siren, and change a few gels for the red wash across the stage during the murders.”
Before I could thank Tyler, David Samson, Professor of Technical Theatre and our show’s Scenic Designer, barreled down the theatre aisle like a bull in a field of tomatoes, shouting, “Tyler!” David is an imposing six feet two inches tall, weighing about a hundred and eighty pounds with a shaved head.
Tyler froze, and replied like a convicted chemical dumper facing an environmental lynch mob. “Yes, David?”
“You didn’t add in the new light cue I gave you for the top of Act II.”
“I’ll have it for tomorrow night,” Tyler said.
David’s strong features hardened. “Your procrastination and laziness are not acceptable.” He scowled. “Do it now.”
“Sure, David,” Tyler responded as he leapt off the theatre seat and hurried into the lighting booth at the back of the theatre.
I came to Tyler’s defense. “David, Tyler has done an amazing job—”
“Nicky, the pacing of the show is too slow. The blocking isn’t balanced. The actors aren’t committing fully to their roles and to listening to one another. This comes as no surprise to me since our Acting professor is as incompetent as you are, Nicky, as our Directing professor. Unfortunately, it seems you’d rather flirt with one another than get to work! This is a disgrace to our department!” David raised his arms in the air like a preacher facing an unrepentant congregation. “You’re the director, Nicky. And I use that term lightly. Your other shows have been insulting to the intelligence of the audience, but this one has reached the pinnacle of being even worse! Will even you let an audience see this repugnant crap?”
“David, this is not the time or place to have this discussion.”