Talk about a killer comedy.

How about one that takes a bit of a toll on a grandfather clock — a once-broken ticker that mysteriously springs to life to chime in with each untimely death of members of an eccentric, southern family of misfits?

Clearly, the relatively unknown “Clockwork” plays out as a sometimes spooky and frequently frenetically paced murder mystery involving relatives willing to knock off Zack Dunwoody, the patriarch of the family to claim their fortune.

The Columbus East High School Theatre Department will present the production at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the school’s Clarence E. Robbins Auditorium.

Understand that the show includes plenty of wordplay. But you have to forgive director Kevin Welsh for an accidental pun of sorts when he mentioned that much of his effort in “Clockwork” has focused on students’, ah, timing.

“In drama, if you mess up a line, the audience often is none the wiser,” Welsh said. “In comedy, if you mess up the timing, you’re lost.”

Members of the 16-person cast say the over-the-top humor in the show will be lost on probably no one.

Josh Knox plays Zack as “one of those typical grouchy older men who’s upset about everything.” Knox laughed about possibly taking a bad day at school and channeling the anger into rehearsals afterward.

“I can go in and yell at everybody,” Knox said.

But the character’s relatives have a plan — to tell their leader funny stories until he laughs himself to death. A nephew named Leon, suffering with an injured leg, finds himself with the opportunity to at least take aim at a serious funny bone early in the production.

“You tell me how you wrenched up your leg or I’ll turn your MasterCard into guitar picks!” yells Zack at his kin.

Knox mentioned that people will have to see the show to discover if a droll death is really possible.

Ava Osowick last played a demented dentist in East’s spring comedy “The Good Doctor,” so she knows how to get laughs now as Nola, the sister of the clan’s patriarch.

“This, though, is a kind of humor that can be very dark at times,” Osowick said.

That includes when a family member gets backed over with a pickup truck, where momentary sadness turns comic amid a family seemingly more comfortable functioning in a reverse kind of way, anyway.

“I’ve grown up in a very close-knit family,” Osowick said, “so it’s hard for me to relate to people with all this bickering and fighting.”

But she loves the idea of jumping in amid such flawed, screwy characters measuring their state of affairs only by who can land the family estate — one that seems, well, to die for.

Welsh said it’s good for a high school theater department to live a little with a risk of a relatively unknown production to help student actors grow.

“I like the idea of students learning to experiment (with portrayals),” Welsh said. “With something like this, they can’t go to YouTube and try to copy someone else. So it forces them to be more creative.”

On one national website promoting productions of the show, a line reads, “The twists and turns will keep you guessing (the killer) to the very end.” Maybe so.

But, as a family character named Gladys says of added deaths and fingering the culprit: “It’s only a matter of time.”

Just like clockwork.

If you go

What: Columbus East High School Theatre Department’s presentation of the Pat Cook murder mystery comedy “Clockwork.”

When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Where: East’s Clarence E. Robbins Auditorium, Indiana Avenue and Marr Road.

Cast members: Josh Knox, Colton Graffa, Emerald Bolander, Ethan Patchett, Erin Erickson, Danilo Almeida, Bethany Shelton, Ava Osowick, Lyric Utterback, Savannah Garrett, Reagan Lykins, Emilee Whipker, Claire Kilbarger-Stumpff, Pattsie Waltz, Christian Davis and Lexi Parker

Admission: Suggested donation of $6.

Information: Facebook page for Columbus East Theatre.

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.