|Morgan Younge & Tom Staudenheimer in A Well-Timed Christmas Murder.
Photo courtesy of WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theatre.
A Well-Timed Christmas Murder!
Written by A.S. Waterman
Directed by Niles Welch
Reviewed by Keith Waits.
Entire contents are copyright © 2012 Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
A Well-Timed Christmas Murder may be set during Christmas 1934, but it eschews the trappings of the holiday season (there is one poinsettia onstage) in favor of a sturdy, character-driven mystery plot. The halls are not decked and the air is not filled with carols. Rather, mystery and intrigue are the order of the day. While other local stages are populated by all manner of Christmas décor, it is refreshing to find a show that wears its holiday connection lightly.
A wealthy, ailing scoundrel named Rocky Barton (John Lina exuding a slick, faux-patrician air) has summoned family and friends to determine who amongst them, if any, deserve to inherit his fortune: the dizzy wife prone to malapropisms (Ann Waterman); the down-on-his luck brother whose failing pig farm was foreclosed by Rocky’s bank (James Wolford Hardin); or drunken ne’er-do-well son Lawrence (Craig Nolan Highley). There is also a sister-in-law (Beth Oliges) and niece (Makayla Staudenheimer), as well as two characters whose connections to the proceedings are suitably mysterious, Marco McGuire (Tom Staudenheimer) and Sal Wilcox (Morgan Younge) and both of whom seem untrustworthy and accustomed to the seamier side of life.
Before too long there is, of course, a murder to complicate matters and secrets begin to be revealed. Almost nothing is as it seems in this tricky script filled with plot twists and resonant with a sub-text that echoes current economic woes without belaboring the idea enough to distract from the entertainment.
The ensemble work well together, yet there is also “a butler” who narrates the action and is (mercifully) removed from serious consideration as a suspect so as to avoid the oldest cliché in the genre. He is presented by Robert Thompson in an elegant and intelligent manner that makes him stand out among the otherwise motley crew of characters.
WhoDunnit continues to maintain an ambitious edge to their scripts that pushes the boundaries of format and storytelling in small but worthwhile ways while always delivering a quality entertainment.
Editor’s Note: WhoDunnit roles are double-cast to accommodate their particular schedule, and some actors mentioned here may not be appearing when you attend.
A Well-Timed Christmas Murder
Saturdays, November 17-December 15
Seating at 6:30 / Show starts at 7:00
Special brunch performance on December 9
WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theatre
Performing at the Hyatt Downtown
320 West Jefferson Street
Louisville, KY 40202