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Classic 'Bad Seed' proves looks can be deceiving

| Thursday, March 12, 2009

If you think you have parenting problems, or are convinced your little sister is a brat, "The Bad Seed" might make you feel better.

The pop culture classic is being staged during the next two weekends at New Olde Bank Theatre in Verona.

The story goes like this:

Little Rhoda Penmark has a secret. Her precociously perfect curtsies and saccharine sweet smiles mask the heart of a pint-sized murderer.

The 8-year-old will not be denied. After schoolmate Claude Daigle wins the coveted penmanship award, an honor Rhoda is certain she deserved, the young boy turns up dead.

While Rhoda may be able to fool her father and sweet Aunt Monica, she can't hide the truth from her increasingly unstable mother, Christine.

For fans of the 1957 movie, starring Patty McCormack as Rhoda, this will be a rare opportunity to see the stage version, says director Sean O'Donnell, a Freeport native and founder of the theater.

"The film was essentially an exact replica of the stage play. It even includes a curtain call during the credits," he says.

Laura Hoffman of Sarver plays Monica Breedlove, a character Breedlove describes as "the nosey, well-meaning amateur psychiatrist, busy body and landlord."

"Any time we see an angelic-looking little girl or boy do something bad, we automatically think of 'The Bad Seed,' " Hoffman says.

Jennifer Schaupp of Pittsburgh plays Hortense Daigle, whose son is Claude Daigle.

"For those who have seen the movie, memories will come back to them," Schaupp says. "For those who haven't, they are in for a roller coaster ride of a good time."

"The Bad Seed" can be viewed as psychodrama or simply campy, says Vincent Chelkowski of Rayburn. Chelkowski portrays Emory Wages, brother of Monica Breedlove, who oversees the apartment building where the action takes place.

"The challenge is finding the line between drama and comedy," Chelkowski says.

Producing "The Bad Seed" required finding just the right young actress to play Rhoda.

The job goes to 11-year-old Mia Richardson of Murrysville, a homeschooled fifth-grader who played the Ghost of Christmas past in the theater's staging of "A Christmas Carol."

"Mia can act circles around most adults four times her age," O'Donnell says.

The girl describes her character as "sweet and sour."

"It is a challenge to switch between a sweet, caring little girl to one that is evil and would do anything it takes to get what she wants," she says. "It is a challenge for me to change my mood so fast."

Additional Information:

'The Bad Seed'

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and March 20-21

Where: The New Olde Bank Theatre, 722 Allegheny River Blvd., Verona

Admission: $12; tickets can be bought online

Details: 412-251-7904, info@newobt.com or www.newobt.com

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