Nancy Sasso Janis
OnStage Connecticut Critic / Connecticut Critics Circle
“Let’s face it. This isn’t Shakespeare, or a deep dramatic piece."
Meriden, CT - The Castle Craig Players, based at the Almira F. Stephan Memorial Playhouse in Meriden, is presenting a very funny audience participation murder mystery titled ‘The Curse of the Hopeless Diamond.’ The mystery written by Eileen Moushey is presented cabaret style with table seating where patrons can eat and drink while they try to solve the whodunit. The fun event runs through next weekend and tickets are still available for all three remaining performances.
The plot line of this particular audience participation mystery is that Reginald Potter decides to display the famous, fabulous, and very cursed Potter Diamond and he finds himself in a dangerous situation, despite having surrounded himself with four detectives/bodyguards. Will the gypsy curse on the diamond claim another victim? Director Melanie Del Sole writes in her note in the program: “Let’s face it. This isn’t Shakespeare, or a deep dramatic piece. These plays are meant to entertain and amuse, pure and simple.” She goes on to explain the pains that she and the cast took to make the corny characters believable even in the face of ridiculous situations...oh, and to keep it fun.
I’ve never attended this type of production before, so admittedly have nothing to compare this one to. It was fun to speak with the cast members as they circulated before the show began and again after the (spoiler alert*) murder. Each of the six actors had strong improvisational skills that served them well during these times, as well as onstage, and their costumes (designed by the director, Ian Galligan and Irene Ludemann) worked well up close and personal. In an effort not to miss a single clue, I found myself paying such close attention that I probably missed some of the comedy; since most of the necessary clues were provided in written form during the solving session, I should have just relaxed. A wild guess on my part led me to the correct suspect, but I was outvoted at my table.
The Castle Craig cast worked together well and were ready for whatever curve ball the audience members threw their way. Stu Wolther returned to this stage to play the blustery Reginald Potter, the current owner of the cursed gemstone. Kathy Wade was flirty and fun as his wife Daphne and had the best accent. Jenney Rivard calls a murder mystery her favorite type of show and here played the mature detective named Felicity Crump.
Nick Demetriades returned to this stage in the role of a Sherlock Holmes inspired Basil Benchley. Cheryl Harnois is a founding member of Castle Craig and appeared in the role of detective Kelly Boggs. And then there was the inimitable Wesley Tack in the role of a detective who is also a master of disguise named Harry Dinker. This young actor has been in virtually every show I have reviewed at this venue and he was clearly in his element in this little show, no matter what costume he was wearing.
Three audience guys got to hit the stage in feather boas and randomly selected patrons got to ask each detective a pre-written question. Each table was given time to confer and one person was asked to add their name to the table’s ballot of who had done the murderous deed. Ms. Del Sole was assisted by Mark Laucella, who ran this matinee.
Coming up at Castle Craig Players is ‘The Marvelous Wonderettes’ featuring Emma Czaplinski, Chelsea Dacey, Jennifer Del Sole and Jessica Engster May 5-14 and ‘Monty Python’s Spamalot’ this summer.
Photo by Ian Galligan for CCP