A comic mystery in two acts
by Michael Craft
Fifty-four and single, Claire Gray has recently embarked upon a new life.
Having lived for some 30 years in New York, where she established herself
as one of Broadways most respected directors, she has agreed to
head the theater department of a recently built college near Palm Springs,
California. Settling into her new home, she has now directed her second
major production at Desert Arts College, a revival of her own hit play,
Traders, starring Tanner Griffin, a 26-year-old heartthrob she
has discovered, taught, and mentored.
Claire couldnt be prouder, but the trouble is, she and the much younger Tanner have developed an intimate relationshiptheyre practically living togetherand now that Traders has closed, Tanner will soon be leaving for Hollywood. Claire knows shes losing him, and in a moment of frustration at the plays closing-night party, she blurts to Tanner, I could kill Spencer Wallace for stealing you from me! Sure enough, after the party, Wallace is found dead in Claires swimming pool. Before the curtain falls on scene two, her remarks have been reported to Detective Larry Knoll, whos investigating the suspicious death.
It was murder, all right, and as details of Wallaces demise begin to emerge from the investigation, Claire finds herself increasingly under suspicion. But shes not alone, far from it, and Detective Knoll eventually welcomes her assistance in sorting through the facts and the suspects. It seems everyone had a plausible motive against WallaceClaire and Tanner; Larrys campy brother, real-estate developer Grant Knoll; Claires zany old chum, costumer Kiki Jasper-Plunkett; the victims icy widow, Rebecca Wallace; and her slippery attorney, Bryce Ballantyne. Even the scatterbrained maid is seen in a suspicious light.
At times rollicking and at other times profoundly serious, the show mixes irreverent laughter with Claires dawning insights into the classic middle-age riddles of lost youth. These emotional extremes serve to frame the ongoing whodunit, which Claire finally solves in a moment of victoryvowing to restrict her future triumphs to the theatrical variety. Somehow, were left with the lingering impression that Claires sleuthing days have only begun.
The script is appropriate for production by any adult or college troupe.
(Most high school groups would find it difficult to convincingly portray
the crucial age difference between Claire and Tanner, who are romantically
Authors commentsReaders who are familiar with my novels have long been aware that theater is a deeply held interest of mine. The theatrical world provides a general backdrop for all of my Claire Gray novels, as well as the fifth Mark Manning mystery, Boy Toy. To a lesser extent, theater plays a role in two earlier Mark Manning books, Eye Contact and Name Games. It will come as no surprise that this focus on theater stems from my own involvement with the art of Thespis.
I discovered the magic of theater during my sophomore year of high school, and it has been a force in my life ever since. I was extremely active in theater not only in high school at Elgin Academy (Elgin, Illinois), but also in college, at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). Later, when my day-job career settled down, I came to know the delights of community theater with Lakeside Players in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Ultimately, however, Photo Flash is as much a character study of Claire Gray as it is a perky whodunit. Claire is a complex gal, struggling with some fairly heavy issues at the personal, emotional level, as delineated in the plays romantic subplot. This, I hope, is what will set Photo Flash apart from so many other worthy drawing-room dramas. These deeper issues, which are decidedly not comic, are meant to keep audiences thinkingafter the curtain falls.
Rights and royalties
Photo Flash is held in copyright by the author, Michael Craft. Production of Photo Flash, whether professional or amateur, is subject to a royalty, which must be paid whether the play is presented for charity or gain and whether or not admission is charged. For information regarding production rights and royalties, or to obtain a sample copy of the script, simply e-mail the author.
Queries regarding all other rights, including film or television development and translation into foreign languages, should be addressed to the authors agent, Mitchell Waters, at Curtis Brown Ltd., 10 Astor Place, New York NY 10003.
here for a listing of the cast of characters.