It was 20 years ago that Grosse Pointe Woods resident Ron Bernas penned the play Since that time, his work has been produced around the world. And this weekend, A Little Murder Never Hurt Anybody takes the stage at the PAC auditorium as the spring production for the school.
Patch recently discussed this dark comedy with playwright Bernas. The following is an excerpt from that interview:
Grosse Pointe Patch: How did you get the idea to write a play?
Ron Bernas: It was back in 1991 and had a writers group. We would meet every two weeks and read scenes we had written. The ultimate goal was–if one was good enough–to have it presented on our main stage. We also wanted to enter all of them into the Community Theatre Association of Michigan’s contest. The criteria for that was that the play had to have a small cast and would be easy to produce.
Patch: Did you have a clear vision of the plot of the story from the start?
Bernas: I don’t know where the idea came from, just something silly I came up with. I used to watch a lot of the old screwball comedies of the ’30s and ’40s. I really like that humor–really intelligent people doing really stupid things. My play ended up being really stupid people doing really stupid things. When I started out, it was going to be much darker–a dark comedy–but it ended up much sillier. That was OK, though. I realized that sillier is better.
Patch: So what is A Little Murder Never Hurt Anybody about?
Bernas: It’s about a very wealthy couple. The play opens up on New Year’s Eve. Each year the couple makes grandiose resolutions to each other. This year the husband announced that he is going to kill his wife before the end of the year. You see, a friend of his just lost his wife and he’s flying here and there, enjoying life. Our character’s wife asks him why he doesn’t just divorce her. He doesn’t want to do that because she would get half of everything.
The wife’s resolution is to stay alive for the year. She is much smarter than he is. There is also their daughter. She gets all her brains from her dad and she announces she’s going to marry a nice, young man. There is a butler with a secret and a detective who thinks he’s Sam Spade but he doesn’t actually know much.
Patch: This sounds like a lot of fun. How many times has it been produced?
Bernas: It was produced at Grosse Pointe Theatre in 1991. To date, it is the only original play to be produced on the Theatre’s main stage. It won the Community Theatre Association of Michigan's contest as well. I then heard from a man who had a publishing house, and he asked if he could publish it. We did some rewrites together–he had some really great ideas. He then published it and it has been produced all over the country, and also in Germany, Israel, Australia and Canada. Two years ago, my publisher retired, but shopped my play to Samuel French, Inc., which is, I believe, the largest publishers of plays.
Patch: How is it that Grosse Pointe North ended up producing your play this fall?
Bernas: Actually, Marty Bufalini, the director, was in the play when it was done at Grosse Pointe Theatre. He played the butler. Each year, he lets his students pick the play they are going to do. He gave them a couple of options and they chose this one.
Patch: I bet it’s going to be great to be able to attend your own play again.
Bernas: I’ll be there every night. Back in 1991, I was single and had no kids. Now I’m married and have four kids. They’re getting a real kick out of seeing the posters and everything. It will be nice to take them to it. Of course, I also sat through a performance of it (at Grosse Pointe Theatre) and saw the man in front of me sleep through it. I didn’t know if I should kick his chair!
Patch: Do you have plans to write more plays?
Bernas: I have written another play that won the Community Theatre competition. I’ve also written others, but life kind of gets in the way. I do teach playwriting at , where I am director of communications. But it feels pretty good to know your play is being produced. This one has been done by community theaters and high schools–no professional groups. But it’s nice that people like what you do.
A Little Murder Never Hurt Anybody opens at the Grosse Pointe North Performing Arts Center on Vernier Road on Thursday, Sept. 29 at 7:30 p.m., with additional performances on Friday, Sept. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in advance at on Mack Avenue near Vernier or at the door. Prices are $10 or $8 for seniors and students. All tickets are general admission.