About that butler …
One almost expects to see an eerie fog waft mysteriously across the stage from the open doors of the lower level library room in the stereotypical setting for a night of bone-chilling murder and mayhem. Yet the scene remains stiffly British, with lush furniture, a fireplace concealing a hidden passage and a fully stocked bar. Though rough around the edges, all in all, it’s the perfect setting for a murder mystery.
The line of suspects is the same as any of the better written Agatha Christie novels; the pompous and the rich, with royal titles and titled wannabes, the unwitting bystanders and, of course, the ever-present, ever-faithful butler. Enter a mysterious man from oversees who seems to know far too much about the private dealings and frightful pasts of this unlikely gathering. He moves stealthily from guest to guest, relating the information they most would like to have kept quiet and by the end of their first act, his web of blackmail is complete. And as the lights go out, is there any wonder why one of these seven guests wouldn’t seize the opportunity to sever the blackmailer’s head?
From there, the average murder mystery would tackle the motives as well as a few identity surprises, and off we would march toward the solution. But such is not the case in Anthony Shaffer’s Whodunnit as presented by Garbeau’s Dinner Theatre. Indeed, the twists and turns of this wacky production are enough to keep most audience members guessing until the very end.
Directed by Rodger McDonald, Whodunnit is a satiric comedy that pokes fun at the classical murder mysteries.
Rich performances by Ami Romness (As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Rivals), Allen Schmeltz (A Christmas Carol, Foxfire, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten) and Bobby Grainger (Little Shop of Horrors, Joseph & the Technicolor Dream Coat) pick up the slack when the show runs into difficulty.
The cast also includes enjoyable performances by Michael Campbell (Twelfth Night, Oliver, Into the Woods), Scott Taylor (The Wizard of Oz, Dreamgirls, The Odd Couple) and Summer Wiseman (Swingtime Canteen, The Crucible, The Heidi Chronicles). Additional cast members include Fritzi Youngstedt (Steel Magnolias, The Cemetery Club, Moon Over Buffalo) and local actor Bob Geary.
While the production runs into less-than-adequate lighting choices, technical pluses of the production lie in Eileen Beaver’s well-made costuming choices and an eye-pleasing set design. The script also includes a slightly homophobic subplot that, unfortunately, is not played off well into the campiness of the production.
Whodunnit is a delightful light comedy full of campy dialogue and characters as well as surprises and laughter. It should provide an evening of fun for mystery lovers who crave the adventure of finding the carefully hidden clues and rooting out a diabolical murderer.