note: entire contents copyright 2014 by Sheila Barth
Silliness, satire, and songs abound at Stoneham Theatre’s wacky musical mystery comedy, “Something’s Afoot”. James McDonald, David Vos and Robert Gerlach’s spoof on Agatha Christie whodunits reunites Director Caitlan Lowans (who’s also Stoneham Theatre’s associate artistic director and director of education) and a roster of Boston’s best performers, whose infectious interaction emanates on- and off-stage.
Award-winning scenic designer Jenna McFarland Lord has outdone herself - again- with this handsome, two-tiered, remote island manse, and its trophied animal heads on the walls, exotic weaponry, dart-shooting plants, suspended-then-falling chandeliers- all kinds of mysterious, fun stuff.
David Wilson’s spooky lighting, sound designer David Reiffel’s scary footsteps, gunshots, storm effects and loud explosions keep theatergoers on the edge of their seats.
On-stage pianist-musical director Bethany Aiken, dressed in Gail Astrid Buckley’s costume to blend in with the cast, is nearly oblivious to their shenanigans surrounding her. She bravely plods on, as lights dim, flicker, extinguish, bodies fall, explosions resound, and characters occasionally interact with her. Besides being the sole musical accompaniment in all 11 songs, (including additional music by Ed Linderman), the stone-faced Aiken also provides suspenseful music between and during scenes.
The weekend guests all know Clive the Butler (Nick Sulfaro) didn’t murder the lord of the manor, who was found dead in bed, because Clive is tripped up on an exploding stair. “Something’s Afoot,” they sing, “and we know the butler didn’t do it!”
Scientific Dr. Grayburn (Russell Garrett) is murdered quickly in the game, too, before he can deduce facts about the murderer.
Although each character mysteriously dies throughout the two-hour, two-act satire, each actor provides his/her unique brand of farcical dimension to the show. Stoneham’s award-winning star, Kathy St. George, is a riot as Lady Grace Manley-Prowe, whose colorful, scandalous past catches up with her during this sinister weekend in the country. Lord Dudley Rancor’s nephew, mustache-twirling, conniving Nigel, (Mark Linehan), is legal heir to his uncle’s fortune. He has some nefarious information about Lady Grace, and uses it to blackmail her into helping him find his uncle’s will. She’s nervous and not as brave or adventurous as Miss Tweed (Margaret Ann Brady). self-professed sleuth, even when her host, the guests and house staff suddenly, and methodically perish. We must “Carry on,” Tweed sings, prompting the ladies to grab spears off the wall and sally forth, while the menfolk are out braving the storm, searching the remote island for suspects.
But, ah, young innocent love blooms between the lovely young Hope Langdon, (Stephanie Granade), and Geoffrey, (Andrew Oberstein), a college third oarsman who washed up on the island during the storm, arousing everyone’s suspicion, after they find a revolver in his backpack. Hope and Geoffrey’s duet, “I Don’t Know Why I Trust You (But I Do),” is a fun throwback to vintage movies.
And pompous Col. Gillweather (J.T. Turner) suddenly realizes he and Lady Grace have a thrilling past and tie that binds, in their hilarious duet, “The Man With a Ginger Mustache”.
As dead bodies pile up in the library, survivors form alliances, hoping to escape alive. John Davin as lecherous, bottom-pinching handyman, Flint, has a “Dinghy” he warbles about, to take him and housemaid Lettie (choreographer-actress Ceit Zweil) away.
But the fickle finger of fate has touched them all, leading to a thrilling, wine-sipping, harmonious “New Day” celebration - and a you’ll-never-guess, eye-winking solution.
BOX INFO: Two-act musical mystery comedy, appearing through March 23, at Stoneham Theatre, 395 Main St., Stoneham. Performances:Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m. For tickets, call the Box Office at 781-279-2200 or visit www.stonehamtheatre.org.