The cast of Specter of the Seance: The Spirit’s Revenge


The Specter at the Séance: The Spirit’s Revenge

By Graham Bell
Directed by Alphaeus Green

Review by Keith Waits

Entire contents copyright © 2014 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

With its newest production, WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theatre has traded environs once again for the slightly more upscale Hilton Garden Inn Louisville Airport. It is still a banquet space in a hotel, necessary, of course, for the dinner service, but it is comfortable, well appointed, and offers ample free parking.

Graham Bell’s script is placed firmly within the tradition of the English drawing room mystery, except that in this case the room is the scene of a séance to communicate with the spirits of the dead conducted by gypsy medium Madame Zylphia (Beth Olliges). The audience is not privy to the séance itself; rather, the action begins rather abruptly with a blood-curdling scream and the explosive entry into the room of irena Vandergriff (Erica Goldsmith). Her husband, William has apparently just collapsed during the mystical proceedings that were also attended by British military officer Captain Sopworth (Robert Thompson), Russian businessman Sergei Romanoff (Niles Welch), and Madame Zylphia’s sister Esmeralda (J.D. Green). Although Sopworth is a British serving officer and instinctively takes charge of the situation enough to calm everyone somewhat (his command could easily have allowed him to be the crime-solver), a Scotland Yard detective, Ian Smedley (Jeff McQueen) arrives to investigate what soon becomes clear is – a murder!

WhoDunnit stories play out within a very specific three-scene structure that well serves the schematics of the mystery. Mr. Bell lays out details of character and circumstance in a logical and lucid fashion that provides his director and cast with a solid foundation for embellishment.

In a show stuffed with accents, the actors display fair judgment in whether to underplay or overstate in broader strokes. Erica Goldsmith’s florid Russian dialect and her clinging pastel lavender dress support her ripe, sexy characterization of a woman whose motives for marriage and exotic demeanor provide plenty of suggestive reasons for murder. Robert Thompson, by contrast, brings a subtle but authoritative touch with his smooth English tones that are consistent and a lightly aristocratic. Beth Olliges and J.D. Green both employ slightly silly accents that fit their eccentric characters, while Niles Welch and Jeff McQueen also go soft with dialect, matching their straightforward, unfussy performances.

It all is in service to another homage to the classic era of civilized murder mysteries, a WhoDunnit specialty, stories that date back before hard-boiled violence came to dominate and the popularity shifted to crime thrillers with private eyes getting beaten up by thugs. Educated characters who speak smart dialogue is a better match for fine dining and a glass of wine.


The Specter at the Séance: The Spirit’s Revenge

Saturdays May 10- June 21, 2014 @ 7:00pm, doors open at 6:30pm
(No show May 24)

WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theatre
Hilton Garden Inn Louisville Airport
2735 Crittenden Drive
Louisville, KY 40209