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GROTON — Village Theatre Project, a professional not-for-profit theater company based around an ensemble of highly-accomplished artists, is putting the finishing touches on its first full production, the world premiere comedy ‘Better Off Dead,’ running April 20 to 30 at the Groton-Dunstable Performing Arts Center.

’Better Off Dead,’ a farce written by Village Theatre Project company member and playwright Shawn Sturnick, tells the tale of David Gelman, played by Shelley Bolman, is a playwright who is mistakenly reported dead in a freak accident. This incites a ticket-buying frenzy — everyone wants to see ‘the play the dead guy wrote.’ Now, the playwright is famous and his awful play is a great box-office success … as long as he stays dead. The playwright is dead, except he isn’t. The play is a hit, except it’s awful. And the producer is going to make a bundle, if everyone can just play along …

Director and company member Troy Siebels is enthusiastic about the world premiere.

”This is a brand-new script that we developed as a company last July at our Ashby retreat, and already other theaters have expressed interest in staging a production,” Siebels said. “We’re blessed to be able to work with a talented playwright and cast, consisting entirely of members of our own company of artists.”

The cast of ‘Better Off Dead’ includes Village Theatre members Shelley Bolman, Christopher Chew, Laura D. DeGiacomo, Cheryl McMahon, Dale Place and Jennifer Valentine. Troy Siebels will direct, with costumes designed by Gail Buckley, scenery by Jenna McFarland, lighting by Jeff Adelberg and sound by Nathan Leigh.

Company member and Ashby resident Chris Chew plays a variety of roles, ranging from a truck driver to the Mayor of New York.

”When I first read the script, I realized it would be a hit for us,” explained Chew. “The show itself is definitely a crowd-pleaser, and a great way for us to start — to show people that they can see professional theater without driving all the way into Boston and paying twice the ticket price plus parking.”

The production will be performed in the group’s 200-seat ‘black box’ theater, constructed on the stage of the Groton-Dunstable Performing Arts Center.

”The auditorium is much bigger than we need or want,” explains Siebels, “so we’ve created our own venue within it. In a more intimate performance space, everything about the experience is better — the audience is more engaged, the laughs are funnier, the characters really come to life.”

Performances begin April 20 and run through April 30. Tickets are $35 for adults, $29 for seniors and $15 for students. Tickets may be purchased now by e-mail at info@villagetheatreproject.org or by calling (978) 456-7898.

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