Six people are invited to the retreat of Col. Rancour with a request for the Colonel to visit each of them individually. However, when a storm washes out the bridge to freedom and guests start dropping dead, it becomes clear that among the guests, help, and trapped college student lies a murderer. This is Something’s Afoot and it is currently playing at Maples Repertory Theatre.
It is really difficult to engage in an analysis of the script without revealing a salient plot point of this mystery, so I’m just going to leave things lie with my opening paragraph and you’ll just have to come watch. What I can say is that James McDonald, David Vos, and Robert Gerlach definitely did a deep dive into detective fiction in general and Agathe Christie mysteries in particular to come up with the plot of this story. In fact, it’s a good combination of the plotting of Agatha Christie and the presentation of Rex Stout (in the sense that the solution to the mystery is secondary to the colorful characters). Wrapped in the stylings of an old-time British music hall performance, this show provides a unique twist to the musical genre and a fun night of theatre.
Colton Pometta gets this show. This show is a very satirical poke at mysteries and Pometta rides that wave for all it’s worth. He lets his characters go over the top just enough so that they’re larger than life and amusing, but keeps them away from the point where it would become farcical and gauche. Pometta’s timing is spot on as his performers picked up cues like lightning and kept driving this show along. His staging is strong with full use of the space and ratcheting up the tension once it’s clear the murderer is somewhere in the house. Pometta has also led his actors to well-defined characters and tight performances.
There isn’t a weak link in the cast and each is a vital part of the machine. Roger Williams has a very stiff upper lip as the very proper butler, Clive. Justin Barron is a solid caretaker and a bit of a lech with his pinching of ladies’ glutes. Deanna Mazdra is humorous as the very Cockney maid whose sense of self-preservation is exceeded only by her greed. Bob Wearing invokes the spirit of Terry Thomas with his take on the slimy, money-grubbing nephew of Col Rancour. Todd Davison is clinical as the family doctor. Mike Ott is a scream as the blustering Col. Gillweather with some of the best extemporaneous asides I’ve ever heard and the funniest death scene I’ve ever seen. Kim Braun is appropriately snooty as the grand dame, Lady Grace Manley-Prowe.
Licia Watson tickles the funny bone as Miss Tweed, the artist/amateur sleuth. Clearly she is meant to be a combination of Agatha Christie and her creation, Miss Marple. Most of her humor comes from the fact that she lacks the deductive prowess of Christie’s famed sleuth, though the dimes do eventually drop. Watson’s Tweed definitely isn’t lacking in courage as she confidently stumbles her way through the investigation. Watson also has a potent singing voice as she invokes British fortitude in “Carry On” and explains the secret to her deductive “brilliance” in “I Owe It All”.
Jacob Sefcak’s take on Geoffrey reminded me of a young Michael Crawford as Geoffrey definitely has that charming idiot vibe. Sefcak nails the puppy dog loyalty and looks of young love and is clearly not the brightest of bulbs. Sefcak also has a dandy tenor that captures every ounce of sap needed for “I Don’t Know Why I Trust You (But I Do)” and “New Day”.
Abigail Becker is darling as Hope Langdon. Becker’s Langdon operates on the same intellectual plane as Geoffrey, but is such a ray of sunshine. She is exactly what she appears to be (or is she?) and has a crystal clear soprano that joyously welcomes the guests in “A Marvelous Weekend” or moons over Geoffrey in “You Fell Out of the Sky”.
I was particularly impressed with the sound work of this production as Madison Phillips’ thunderclaps, creaks, and sounds of death traps add the proper atmosphere to the story. Todd Davison has designed an elegant retreat for the wealthy Rancour with its purple walls and use of outlines and light to depict a large window. Jenna Alley’s props help to flesh out the world, especially with the large portrait of Rancour. Kelby King’s costumes suit the class statuses of the characters as well as the time period with accurate dresses and suits. I also tip my hat to the lights which were suitably eerie when power was knocked out or the chandeliers were lit. The band also effortlessly handled the music hall score.
Trust me, you don’t need to be a fan of murder mysteries to enjoy this show. If you like comedy and some old-fashioned tunes, then you’ll like this show, too. But accept the challenge of trying to solve the mystery and you’ll find yourself most thoroughly engaged.
Something’s Afoot runs at Maples Repertory Theatre through Nov 6. Showtimes are 2pm on Oct 22-23, 25-26, 29-30 and Nov 1-2 and 4-6 and at 7:30pm Oct 23, 28, 30, and Nov 2. Tickets cost $33 for the Main Floor and $26 for the balcony and can be obtained at the Box Office or by visiting www.maplesrep.com or calling 660-385-2924. Maples Repertory Theatre is located at 102 N Rubey St in Macon, MO.