Bobby Smith, Jodi Franklin, Erica Goldsmith, Victoria Edgar, Lindsey Kelty, Christina Kelty, John Campbell Finnegan, & John Trueblood in a backstage photo. Photo: Bobby Smith
Fashion Show at the Castle of Blood
By A.S. Waterman
Directed by Sharon Kinnison
A review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2019 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
One of the broadest and silliest shows in the WhoDunnit canon, Fashion Show at the Castle of Blood is a campy romp perfectly scheduled in the run-up to Halloween. It is also unique in that instead of a single murder, the story is littered with several bodies, mostly offstage.
Because you see, there appears to be a vampire among the guests at Pepper Aupoivre’s (Jodi Franklin) fashion show. Suspects include upper-crust Buffy Burnside (Erica Goldsmith), her husband Biff (Bobby Smith), and two doctor daughters, Co 1 (Christina Kelty), and Co 2 (Lindsey Kelty) – named after Coco Chanel. There is also Dr. Van Pires (John Campbell Finnegan), Mary Lou Wray (Victoria Edgar), and Mrs. Castle (John Trueblood) who is either the maid, or the owner of the castle, or at the very least a reminder that nothing in a WhoDunnit show is likely to be what it seems. There are enough red herrings here to choke a shark.
It is a little fun, although the show includes musical numbers that are far too tentative in their execution, lacking the necessary jolt of energy this over-the-top comedy demands. This is a farce, and needs energy and stamina even for the brief running time of the scenes.
For the most part, the cast finds that in the playing. WhoDunnit hall of fame member Erica Goldsmith returns after an extended absence to reprise Buffy from more than a few moons ago, and barely misses a step in recapturing the mix of a vamp and comic buffoonery that was characteristic of her best work in previous years.
As the nearly unintelligible Biff Burnside, Bobby Smith shows evidence of having studied his Marx Brothers in preparation for the role, especially the innocent lechery of Harpo. Watching his body language, there is more than a touch of Groucho too.
John Trueblood leans the most into unabashed hamminess, which in this show is a virtue. His character is fluid on all sorts of levels, including gender and class, and a quiet riot at all times.
After those three performances, I wish the rest of the able ensemble showed a little more of that risk-taking bravado instead of the earnest and moderate temper they bring to bear. They are good, but they could have reached a little more for the zany, untethered feeling that the script asks for. They touch upon it in moments here and there but mostly stay on safer ground.
Still, it’s fun and goofy enough to deliver good entertainment value. The costumes make a vivid impression, and there were several wardrobe changes in the women’s attire that belie the limitations of staging a play with what amounts to a closet for backstage. WhoDunnit has always been an intimate theatre experience, cozier and more interactive while still firmly rooted in tradition.
Fashion Show at the Castle of Blood
September 14 – October 26, 2019
Seating at 6:30 / Show starts at 7:00
WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theatre
At The Downtown Bristol
614 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.