Death by Chocolate
By Paul Freed
Directed by John Hardaway
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents copyright © 2017 Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
Do you like a murder mystery? How about a comedic play? Well, you are in luck, Clarksville Little Theatre is offering up Paul Freed’s smile inducing Death by Chocolate this month.
The play begins on the eve of the grand re-opening of the upstate New York Meadowbrook Health Resort, a location that had been quiet for a while after the demise of its founder, Henry Meadowbrook. The new owner, Lady Riverdale (Candace Kresse), is determined to make sure that everything is ship shape and ready for the resort’s success, especially since most of her money has been tied up in the refurnishing of the former mansion. Despite all of the preparation, there is trouble afoot. Staff members are being murdered.
Manager John Stone (Andrew K. McGill) is tasked with determining how and who has been doing the killings and teams up with mystery writer Ed Parlor (Richard Seng), who happens to be staying at Meadowbrook as a guest of Lady Riverdale, to assist in the discovery.
The two amateur detectives try to solve the murders using plot devices that Mr. Parlor would include in his as yet unwritten novel, Death by Chocolate. A play within a play, if you will.
Among the murdered employees are Chef Edith Chiles (Zechariah McKensie) and gym instructor Ralph Deadwood (Richard Martin), who held damning knowledge of Lady Riverdale’s previous life.
But you can’t have a murder mystery without a little busy body hanging about can you? Enter Margaret Daniels (Sharon Becher), a guest writer for Elite Magazine whose reporter’s nose senses something afoul about the resort.
A parade of employees are interrogated: Mr. Stone’s assistant Dyslexia (Alexandra Seabrook), Nurse Anne (Debbie Smith), Fitness Instructor Dick Simmering (Joshua Anderson), Henry Meadowbrook’s daughter Sweet Pea (Miranda Smith), and Butler Alfred Mellox (James Ballard). Do they have intent to kill or air-tight alibis? You’ll have to see the play to find out.
This play is filled with one-liners, jokes, and lots of double-entendres, and most of them are in the hands of the character John Stone. Mr. McGill’s handled the task pretty well, resembling a characteristic flim-flam man turned nightclub comedian. Richard Seng’s Ed Parlor was fine, but could use a bit more confidence in delivery. Same can be said for Candace Kresse’s Lady Riverdale.
Not all of the comedic lobs are from the Stone character. Some of the balls thrown were pitch perfect while others were Dead On Arrival. It helps the play along when characters react to the lines, which unfortunately was lacking this evening. Timing is important too, and this was also a bit off.
Joshua Anderson’s Dick was fun to watch and as much as I disliked the character, Richard Martin played Ralph like the bully he is. Debbie Smith’s Anne had some good comedic moments as did Mr. McKensie’s short turn as Chef Chiles. Alexandra Seabrook’s Dyslexia was the cool head throughout the show.
Miranda Smith’s Sweat Pea was fun when she was muttering, but needed a bit more strength and clarity when she had actual dialogue. James Ballard’s Alfred seemed a bit over the top, but for this play, that doesn’t feel inappropriate.
The production company hit the mark with sound and set design but perhaps costume had a misstep as it pertained to the choice of a hat for Margaret Daniels. While this production is set in the 21st Century, the addition of a hat worthy of Derby time made the production feel closer to early 20th Century.
All in all Death by Chocolate was a good performance and a nice bit of escapism with funny escapades.
Death by Chocolate
January 13 – 22, 2017
Friday and Saturdays @ 8:00 PM
Sunday January 15th @ 8:00 PM
Sunday January 22nd @ 2:00 PM matinee
For Ticket reservations go to http://www.clarksvillelittletheatre.org/tickets/
or Call (812) 283-6522
Clarksville Little Theatre
301 Montgomery Avenue
Clarksville, IN 47129
Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.