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Murder at Weatherfield

a Comedy
by Joe Starzyk

COMPANY : Lionheart Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : College Street Playhouse
ID# 5371

SHOWING : October 18, 2018 - October 21, 2018



"Murder at Weatherfield" is a farcical who-done-it which particularly spoofs the style of Agatha Christie. As family members gather at the country estate of Lord Winthrop to learn about the changes in his will, we gradually learn about financial problems, marital issues, and family secrets. Revelations come flying out like a runaway train! (This show contains material, such as sexual references and innuendos, that may not be suitable for children. It is recommended for adult audiences only.)

Director Bob Winstead
Lord Reginald Winthrop Jason Caldwell
Casey Winthrop Richard Diaz
Foote Richard Dillon
Woodhouse Jim Nelson
Toby Rick Perera
Weed Jeremy Reid
Romaine Kathleen Seconder
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Not a Spoof
by playgoer
Sunday, November 18, 2018
Joe Starzyk’s "Murder at Weatherfield" is billed as a spoof of Agatha Christie mysteries, but it’s actually more of a pale imitation of a Christie plot tricked out with occasional comic lines and with some racy elements (drug use, pornography, transsexuality, homosexuality). It requires a set with a number of doors (but no furniture) and requires a variety of accents (high-class British, low-class British, standard American, gnarly dude American, Spanish, and one character who can’t settle on a single accent). There are definitely some farcical elements, but the show is not really either a mystery or a farce.

The short (35-minute) first act introduces us to the aged and widowed Lord Winthrop (the perfectly coiffed and perfectly well-spoken Gregory Nassif St. John), who has assembled his far-flung family for an announcement. The family includes a pretentious English son (the mustachioed Jason B. Caldwell as Reginald Winthrop) and Reginald’s sharp-tongued wife Romaine (the delightfully strident Kathleen Seconder), along with a stoner American son (the spot-on Scott Starkweather as Ray) and his slacker companion, Weed (the nearly equally zoned-out Jeremy Reid). There’s also a grandson (the energetic Richard J. Diaz as Casey Winthrop) and a young woman (the soft-spoken Kendra Gilbert as Victoria) who has been treated as a granddaughter, although she’s the daughter of the family lawyer (the businesslike Jim Nelson as Woodhouse). The household is run by majordomo Toby (the elegantly tailored Rick Perera) and quintessentially sexy maid Lucy (the waif-sized Marisa-Clare Hissey in impossibly high heels).

The first act introduces us to these characters, reveals that Lord Winthrop has recently changed his will, and shows three possible causes of death (but no real motives) before it’s revealed at act end that the Lord is dead. The second act brings in two additional characters: a mysterious Spaniard (the delightfully latino Jeff Haynes as Saturnino) and a Scotland Yard inspector (the Columbo-like Richard Dillon Jr. as Foote). The possible murder attempts are explained and loose ends are tied up before the contents of the will are revealed, but we don’t get any real motives for attempted murder. We know that Reginald believed he was the sole heir, but his wife Romaine got wind of changes to the will before the murder attempts, and no possible murderer seems to have known what the changes were. An attempt at framing someone is equally lacking in true motivation. One thing Agatha Christie mysteries are known for is impeccable plotting, and a spoof needs that same deftness to truly land.

Lionheart’s physical production is fine. The set (painted by Gabrielle Stephenson; constructed by Tim Link, Bill Brown, Tanya Caldwell, and Jason Caldwell; and decorated by Gregory Nassif St. John, Tina Barnhill, and Tanya Caldwell) shows a maroon baronial estate’s great room with wood wainscoting, a fireplace stage left and a window stage right, and walls interrupted by a hall, a staircase, and a collection of doors and curtained openings. The only furniture is a table and a couple of chairs up right and a drink cabinet up center. The rest of the stage floor is empty to accommodate Lord Winthrop’s wheelchair. The elegant surroundings are emphasized by Tina Barnhill’s props and by the costumes furnished by Gregory Nassif St. John, Tina Barnhill, and Tanya Caldwell. Gary White’s lighting design illuminates the action nicely, and sound design by Bob Peterson and Bob Winstead sets the mood for the scenes.

The play starts with a lengthy voice-over explaining the premise of the show and ends with a shorter voice-over revealing the future of the main characters. The initial voice-over makes for a slow start, but the final one is sparked by showing us the characters as they’re spoken of. It leads nicely to the curtain call.

Director Bob Winstead’s blocking makes clever use of the central audience aisle as the outside access to Lord Winthrop’s manor. A bell pull descends from the ceiling to function as a doorbell (and gets its own clever little curtain call). Otherwise, Mr. Winstead’s blocking is fairly straightforward, with some clumping of actors that obscures sightlines from the edges of the audience. He has encouraged his actors to create uniquely etched characters that make the most of the script.

"Murder at Weatherfield" is a short show that is fun to watch, but that doesn’t reward deep consideration of the plot. Mindless entertainment it is; Agatha Christie it’s not. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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