Cooper Center for Creative Arts

Fans of the “Pink Panther” and its bumbling French detective Inspector Jacques Clouseau — and all who appreciate comedy, theatre and dance — can look forward to the Cooper Center for Creative Arts’ newest production, “A Shot in the Dark.”

A play loosely based on the Inspector Clouseau film of the same name, “A Shot in the Dark” opened Thursday. Performances are also scheduled for today and Saturday.

Billed as “an absurd French farce murder-mystery dance theatre comedy play, performed by Americans, set in Germany,” director Jonathan Hunt-Sell said “A Shot in the Dark” will keep audiences laughing for the full 80-90 minutes.

“I’ve always wanted to direct a farce here,” he said. “I think these actors have a natural ability for comedy.”

The play is a unique adaptation — drawing elements from the original play “The Idiot” by Marcel Archard, its English translation “A Shot in the Dark” by Harry Kurnitz and the 1964 Peter Sellers movie based on the English translation — and renaming the characters as well as relocating the story.

“We took all three of those versions — the French play, the English adaptation and then the movie — and kind of created our own version of the story, set in Germany,” Hunt-Sell said.

The play follows Inspector Adolf Dummkopf — a German reimagining of Inspector Clouseau — as he attempts to solve a mansion murder mystery. Having fallen in love with the most likely suspect, Dummkopf refuses to accept she could be the culprit and repeatedly releases her from jail. Even as the bodies pile up, Dummkopf refuses to change his mind, much to the chagrin of those he works with.

The Cooper Center rendition will also add plenty of dance numbers and physical humor, said Heather Malek, the play’s stage manager, costumer and properties manager.

“We always tend to adapt all of our scripts for our actors and for our space,” Malek said.

From the first practice sessions in January, the cast and particularly Collin Pierce — in the lead role — have grown into their characters and made them compelling, Hunt-Sell said.

“Anyone connected to that character will immediately recognize it and fall in love with it,” Hunt-Sell said. “He tried to make it his own and that’s what’s been really cool about the process.”

But there is plenty of room in the farce for other actors to rake in the laughs as well, as the play features an ensemble cast of 16 actors — and gives many of them a chance to test out their comedy chops, said Malek.

“Some of our actors are the funniest people I know in the world,” she said. “This particular script, I think, opened up doors for a few actors to really kind of get their stride.”

Malek added that people who miss the play will wish they hadn’t, as the play will be one of the best put on by the Cooper Center in recent years.

Hunt-Sell also urged people to attend.

“This is as close … as watching a taping of an episode of Seinfeld or Friends or any other of those silly sitcoms as you could get,” he said.

Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m., today and Saturday at the Cooper Center for Creative Arts, 1174 N. Fourth St. Tickets are $5 each and can be purchased at the box office by calling 742-3996 or emailing events@arkrs.org.

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