The butler didn’t
A drafty manor in the English countryside. A dead body at the bottom of the staircase. It might have been an accident, but more likely it was murder. And several characters appear to have something to hide.
But the butler didn’t do it. We’re not giving anything away here—there isn’t a butler in the play. Ravenscroft is a whodunit, to be sure, but it’s also quick-witted and has a funnybone, along with a few macabre suggestions, just in time for Halloween. The show manages to set up and then cleverly dodge, divert or transpose the audience’s expectations at several points along the way.
Don Nigro’s script tells the entire story in something very close to real time—the events we see onstage all take place in a single evening, over a period of time almost identical to the play itself. At the center of events is Inspector Ruffing (John Pellman, an MFA candidate from UC Davis) who is onstage and talking in every scene. Director Stephanie Gularte—working on the Delta King’s short, shallow stage—uses the situation to her advantage by having the other five characters—all female—sit in the back, watching like a Greek chorus (or perhaps a jury).
The script teases out the details of the dead man’s life and demise, one by one. Clearly, he was flirting with several of these women, but which (or even how many) actually consummated the romance? Audiences are advised to keep their wits about them, as this show has a convoluted plot and several surprises in store.
Some of the British accents are better than others, and a few lines momentarily tripped the players on opening night. Some scenes in the second half threatened to get out of control. But Pellman is strong as the inspector. The cast also features two CSUS theater grads: Nicole Hayes is quite funny as the domineering lady of the house, and Ellen Vincent is steady and convincing as the servant Mrs. French. KariAnn Craighead (a former B Street Theatre apprentice) is also good as the teenage girl whose overactive imagination sometimes interferes with telling the truth; Katherine Pappa rounds out the cast as the good-looking governess.
Those looking for a spooky mystery that mixes some laughs together with the chills will find what they’re after here.