Scott Harvey likes to bring comedies to the stage that aren't well-known, but still generate lots of laughter.
He did so last March, when his directorial debut, "The Trouble with Cats," was a hit at Albany Civic Theater.
Believing in his eye for a good script, some of the same cast and crew members joined Harvey for his next production, "No Body Like Jimmy." The comedy, written by Burton Bumgarner, opens Friday night at Albany Civic Theater.
"Scott has a really great vision for his shows," says assistant director Chris Kastet, who played the lead in his last play. "He always picks fun shows that make people laugh and feel good."
Harvey said the easiest comparison to make for "No Body Like Jimmy" is the movie "Weekend at Bernie's.” This is because the story involves a dead body and two people running around trying to convince everyone else that the person is still alive.
The director said the play has been mostly produced for high school and community theater stages on the East Coast.
"We've made this family-friendly enough that there's no major foul language or anything, so kids can come and have a good laugh or two," Harvey said.
In the comedy Ralph and Eloise Vanlandingham, played by Anthony McMahon and Dinee Rae, are set to host a political fundraising dinner for Eloise, who is running for Congress.
Unfortunately, Ralph's best friend from college, Harold, unexpectedly arrives right before with a major problem. Harold, played by Joshua Winter, has a dead body in the back of his van, and he needs Ralph's help to hide it.
They end up carrying the body into the house right as the party is about to begin.
"Guests start coming in, and now they've got a body sitting there in the middle of the room," Harvey said. "Everybody thinks that he's alive, and they are having conversations with him."
Complicating matters: Eloise hates Harold and doesn't want him there. While Ralph loves his wife and wants to be supportive of her during this important evening, he can't let Harold leave.
"I need him here, because he brought trouble into my house. I can't have him leave until everything is taken care of," McMahon said.
In the meantime, Eloise is hoping for campaign contributions, which is why a rich Texas couple, cowboy Rick Pitman (Doug Mainwaring) and his wife, Emma (Hannah Brunson), are important guests at the party. The speechwriter who organized the fundraiser, a faux British man named Nigel (Sam Sappington), is trying to hide something about himself from the others, Castet said.
And the campaign manager, Diane (Melissa McCue, a first-time actor at ACT and West Albany High School graduate), is trying to focus on Eloise's campaign.
"She wants the dinner party to go as smoothly as possible, and to get money from the Texans," McCue said.
They have a server, Baxter (Joshua White), who gets drunk at every catered event, including this one.
Two police officers eventually show up at the dinner, an experienced one (April Wilcox) and a rookie (Logan Klein).
And then there is the dead body, Jimmy, played by veteran actor Jeff McMahon (Anthony's father).
"You would think it's an easy part sitting on the couch with no lines, but it's actually difficult," Castet said. "There's a lot of timing gags with (him) falling over, and he has to be picked up. He's just perfect for it."
Anthony McMahon said his dad welcomed the challenge of playing a dead man, and that it takes great concentration not to move for the entire play.
"He came in as a natural, and everyone assumes he's sleeping," McMahon said. "Trust me, if he's sleeping you'll know. He's a big-time snorer."
Harvey noted that the other characters have deep one-sided conversations with the dead man.
"As people are alone with Jimmy, they really open up to him and show who they really are," Harvey said.
Harvey said having a good cast makes an already humorous comedy that much better.
"When they make me laugh out loud, then I know I've got something good going. They've done that many times," Harvey said.