John Lina, Brian Kennedy, Beth Olliges, & Emily Eader in The Oxford Incident.
The Oxford Incident
By Teresa Wentzel
Directed by Joe Monroe
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2015 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
As the first scene opens, the murder has already been committed, and a suitably rumpled detective of hangdog countenance, Lt. Garrett (John Lina) soon arrives to interview the suspects. Its 1975, and author Dorian Oxford has been found dead in his penthouse apartment in New York. The other residents are suspects: sister Candace Burtron (Beth Olliges), her daughter Bebe (Emily Eader), and drunken son “Rolly” (Brian Kennedy), Dorian’s brother Percifield (Tom Staudenheimer) and Manservant Rupert (Robert Thompson).
In the first scene opportunity is equal among the suspects and motive is non-existent, which means things get off to a slow start. The length of the play in a WhoDunnit production, broken up by dinner service as it is, is actually relatively brief, and Teresa Wentzel’s script squanders the opening in introductions, only really getting serious in the second scene, where we discover details about Dorian’s new manuscript, a thinly fictionalized accounting of each family members’ secrets that would seem to provide them all sufficient reason to want the writer dead. And the third scene delivers even more revelations. I’m tempted to cry foul that vital clues were communicated after the solution cards were collected, but I am famously bad at solving the mystery anyway.
Ms. Wentzel seems intent to break a few rules within the traditional locked-room mystery structure, and I applaud the impulse, but it seems ill-suited to this particular and highly individual format. Performances among the ensemble were satisfactory, with Robert Thompson smooth as silk as the debonair Rupert, with adept turns from Beth Olliges and Emily Eader. John LIna seemed to struggle with pacing on the night I was in attendance, but he nicely embodies the veteran, world-weary detective.
Tom Staudenheimer and Brian Kennedy both overplayed to some degree, but were favorites in the table walks, in which the cast mingle with the crowd between scenes while in character. In truth, a broader approach to performance can result in good interaction and winning over the audience in this particular theatrical circumstance.
I wasn’t certain why the story was set in 1975, although the scenes were identified by song titles from that period: “Bad Blood”, “The Way We Were”, and “Somebody Done Somebody Done Wrong.”
The Oxford Incident fills the entertainment requirements of the WhoDunnit program well enough, and even deposits a tuxedoed manservant/butler on to the stage as if to beg the cliché. It’s a knowing wink to the audience not to take proceedings too seriously and just enjoy yourself.
The Oxford Incident
Saturdays February 14- March 15, 2015 @ 7:00pm, doors open at 6:30pm
Tickets $45.50 (includes meal, show, tax, and gratuity). Group discounts available. Reservations are necessary: call (502) 426-7100
WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theatre
Hilton Garden Inn Louisville Airport
2735 Crittenden Drive
Louisville, KY 40209
[box_light]Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at the Louisville Visual Art Association during the days, including being one of the hosts of PUBLIC on ARTxFM, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.[/box_light]