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This article by Jack Florek was prepared for the August 8, 2001

edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Review: `Something’s Afoot’

Ah, the typical trappings of a murder mystery —

a creaking door hinge, a shot in the dark, a far off scream, and .

. . a tuneful little ditty? Well, not exactly.

Sure it has lots of dead bodies, but in Off Broadstreet Theater’s

current production of "Something’s Afoot," a musical spoof

on whodunits in general, and Agatha Christie’s "Ten Little

Indians"

in particular, suspense has definitely been suspended. Written by

James McDonald, David Vos, and Robert Gerlach, "Something’s

Afoot"

takes the high-stress genre of Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock,

twists it with some comic winks and nudges, adds some hum-able tunes

and turns it into a pleasant evening of light entertainment.

A personal favorite of producers Julia and Robert Thick, this is the

second go-round for "Something’s Afoot" at Off Broadstreet,

having been first staged there in 1988. Performances will run through

August 25, on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8, with Sunday matinee

performances at 2:30.

Typically the most important part of a murder mystery is its story

line, and "Something’s Afoot" is no exception. A group of

six guests, (all broad character types — such as a nephew who

stands to inherit money or a sophisticated woman with secret love

child whom she has never seen) are mysteriously invited to the

isolated

country estate of reclusive millionaire, Lord Dudley Rancour. None

of these guests know exactly why they have been invited to see

Rancour,

and each of them is surprised to discover they were not the only

invitee.

But soon enough, shockwaves are sent through the group when they

suddenly

learn that Lord Rancour is dead. Fate is stacked atop fate as, unable

to leave due to the fortuitous arrival of a violent storm, each guest

— along with the hired help — is systematically murdered in

humorous fashion.

The tone is set early in the show when the butler, Clive (played by

Curtis Kaine), becomes the murderer’s first victim when he is done-in

by a mysteriously exploding staircase. Suspicion is cast throughout

all the guests as to who the murderer could possibly be and all

immediately

break into song, announcing that their only sure knowledge is that

in this case "the butler DIDN’T do it."

Slowly but surely every character is bumped-off, each

in a uniquely entertaining fashion — such as electrocution, poison

dart, or poison gas emerging out of a disconnected telephone. Finally

there are only two significant characters left, and both accuse the

other of being the killer.

"Something’s Afoot," as written, isn’t the greatest of

musicals.

The show is highly predictable, the characters are largely bland

cliches,

and the quality of the songs is uneven. But Robert Thick does a nice

job directing, keeping things running smoothly and with a light,

well-crafted

verve. He combats the predictability of the script with an

exceptionally

well rehearsed cast and an easy-going feel to the show in general.

The cast seems to be having a heck of a lot of fun performing up

there,

and that is no small part of the show’s charm.

Of course, the nature of the broad-based comedy doesn’t allow for

much individual characterization from an actor’s point of view.

Nonetheless,

a definite versatility is required and Ed Teti as Nigel Rancour and

Gerry Martin as Miss Tweed more than fill the bill. Gianine Teti is

quite charismatic as the young, slightly dippy, Hope Langdon. She

is also a terrific singer. Aggie Roberts is nicely cast as her

somewhat

goofy male love interest, Geoffrey.

Brendan Scullin infuses his performance as Flint with a boyish

earthiness

that lends a certain depth to a character that could easily rest in

cliche. Likewise Joyce LaBriola as Lady Grace Manley-Prowe. She is

charming, though understated. Tom Twardowski as Doctor Grayburn, Cait

West as the maid, and Curtis Kaine as the butler all stand out despite

their small parts.

Michael Lawrence is often very funny as Colonel Gillweather and it

is obvious that he is a gifted comedic performer. But at times it

appears that his gifts get the better of him and he morphs into

something

more cartoonish than funny, almost as if he were suddenly in his own

manic play.

The multi-storied set design by Robert Thick is quite ambitious and

well rendered. Likewise are the costume designs by Patricia A. Hibbert

and Ann Raymond. Their brightly colored dresses against the rustic

reddish-brown of the set displays an almost a Monet-like sensitivity

to color, making "Something’s Afoot" one of the more lovely

shows to look at.

With an accomplished ability to put on an efficiently run show,

Off-Broadstreet

Theater has got the nuts and bolts of theater down pat. It would be

interesting to see what they could do with more ambitious scripts.

Nonetheless, a well-done show, even a weak one, is nothing to sneeze

at.

— Jack Florek

Something’s Afoot , Off-Broadstreet Theater, 5 South

Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell, 609-466-2766. $20.50 to $22. To

Saturday,

August 25.


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