By Jordan Wright (Photo/Doug Olmstead)
Oh, how I love it when The Little Theatre of Alexandria does a murder mystery — especially when it’s the time of year when things go bump in the night.
And you’ll know you’re in for a spooktacular adventure with “A Party to Murder” when the sign outside the theater reads, “Warning: This show contains special effects such as thunder, lightning, gun shots and explosions.”
Oh, my! Even with this foreshadowing of a peculiar night with peculiar people, I’d advise you to hold on tight to your seat and put your brain in crime-solving mode.
Director Jim Howard and a nifty cast take this homage to Agatha Christie and brighten up the murderous antics — yes, antics — with gallows humor aplenty to accompany the ghoulish plot.
Stranded on an island at Haddington House in the home of famed British author Charles Prince (John Henderson), five well-heeled guests play a parlor game, adopting the roles of priest, housemaid, conjurer, politician and model.
But are they? Or are they just recreating a game played by the infamous Phantom Five, a group of houseguests who disappeared on the island during a murder mystery game, never to be seen or heard from again. What kind of game is this devious host playing?
When a dead body shows up, especially someone against which each holds a grudge, it’s a rollicking good time trying to figure out which one is prevaricating and which one is posing.
Could it be corporate scions Valerie (Laura Peterson) and her sister Henri (Eva Seville Coll), whose Addison Industries has been found to be poisoning Michigan’s water supply? Timely reference, that. They know they could be ruined and their father’s company reduced to pennies on the dollar if the truth came out.
Or could it be McKenzie (Danielle Comer), the street-smart model who has it in for her abusive lover, the wealthy corporate magnate Elwood (James McDaniel)? Another prime suspect is the wheelchair-bound Willy (Damian John Legacy), who is worried his dark business dealings with the deceased soon will be revealed.
And then there’s our charmingly debonair host, Charles, who does a devious job of pointing the finger at everyone else. Could he have engineered the whole thing to shift the blame away from himself?
This nifty, tightly written and cleverly acted whodunit is filled to the rafters with twists and turns. Highlighted by David Correia’s spooky sound design; sinister lighting by the JK Lighting Designs team of Jeffrey Scott Auerbach and Kimberly Crago, and spine-tingling special effects by Art Snow, the eerie experience is enhanced to a fare-thee-well.
A special nod goes to long-time alumna Carol Strachan, who designed the myriad of props with Susan Driscoll. And kudos to John Downing for one of the best sets I’ve seen at the Little Theatre.
Go! It’s Halloween, and it’s a hoot and a howl.