‘Laura’ comes to Shoals Theatre

This week, Florence’s Shoals Theatre began a run of several performances of the play “Laura,” which is based on the 1944 film of the same name, starring Gene Tierney.

I caught the performance on the 6th, and I was thoroughly impressed.

I haven’t seen the film, so I’m not in a position to compare and contrast, but this was a well-executed production performed by a cast of talented actors who know their craft well.

The play opens soon after the murder of the titular Laura, an advertising executive who meets her demise right before the performance kicks off.

Detective Mark McPherson is tasked with investigating her death, and from here we meet the rest of our characters, some of whom may also be considered suspects in Laura’s murder.

There’s Waldo Lydecker, Laura’s highly egotistical mentor; her fiancé, Shelby; her aunt, Ann; and her housekeeper, Bessie.

Clearly, “Laura” is a murder mystery, but it’s an effective one.

The problem with many murder mysteries is that they’re predictable, unrealistic and fail to produce suspense, much less capture an audience’s attention.

The performance I saw made none of these mistakes.

UNA student Haley Prestridge plays the title character. She and her cast mates are genuinely convincing in their roles, and they provide the performance with just the right amount of tension, suspense and sense of danger that all the great murder mysteries thrive on.

Many of those great mysteries ask questions about what occurs in the darker recesses of the human mind and the obsessions of people, and “Laura” does this as well, in a believable fashion that lends a sense of realism to the performance.

The play is heavy on dialogue, and I have to commend the actors not only for their high-quality performances, but for the effort I imagine it required in terms of memorization.

The dialogue itself helps to drive the play; it’s sharp, well-crafted and contributes a lot to the suspenseful atmosphere of the play.

If you like a good murder mystery—and I think most people do—then I recommend you check this play out.

It’s as much a tale of obsession as it is about murder itself, and since murder is often born of obsession and the darker aspects of the human psyche, I think that’s a good combination for a play to have.

Kudos to everyone involved in the production—it was a great way to spend a Friday night.