Wednesday, October 28, 2009

since it's nice, I'll post it....

I think eventually, it will be posted on their website, but for now, I'll just post the whole thing.

Mesquite Community Theatre

*REVIEWED 10/24/09

REVIEWED BY Matt Gunther

_______________________THE BUTLER DID IT______________________

Do the words `Detective Mystery' and ` Butler ' evoke any kind of immediate response in your mind? Did you perhaps think of Ellery Queen, Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, or maybe Peter Falk wearing his shabby trench coat as Columbo? If you had you wouldn't have come within a thousand miles of the true nature of the show `The Butler Did It' playing at the Mesquite Community Theatre, mainly because there was no detective and no butler, but that doesn't stop it from being a pretty entertaining show.

Don't get me wrong, it does take place during a stormy night on a mysterious island with a group of people that all seem to have something from their past to hide, and a number of figurines on a fireplace mantle that drop one by one, signifying… Well, I'll leave the rest for you to find out on your own. Suffice it to say that the story, albeit thin, is enjoyable and a murder does take place – in the show, not in the audience, so you can relax about going – but this show is not meant to be serious or mysterious, but rather a comedy and the laughs are plenty.

The story revolves around a select group of detective novelists, all dressed and in character as their fictional detectives, invited to spend a weekend on Turkey Island , off the coast of San Francisco . The old adage that says, `Those that can't do – teach' applies directly to this group of characters except in the form of `Those that can't do – write', because this bunch of yahoos wouldn't know detective work if it hit them on the head with a ten foot magnifying glass. The characters these writers play are larger than life and they play their cliché parts well.

Laura Warner is excellent as the commanding and stylishly sly hostess of Ravenswood Manor, Miss Maple. My initial reaction to Miss Maple was game show host on a soap opera. But Ms. Warner infuses her with a modicum of vulnerability as well. She presents a powerful presence with her booming voice and sophisticated air and leaves no doubt about who is in charge, although the hired help, Haversham (Rachel Hall) might have something to say about that.

Ms. Hall takes casual grossness to a new level as she picks her nose and her teeth—sometimes in the same moment—sneezes, blows, and hacks her way through her required duties. It would be easy for these antics to upstage everything else, but her timing is wonderful and so it fits.

Jennifer White plays Miss Maple's stoic assistant Rita with just the right amount of emotional detachment to draw suspicion upon her character throughout the show as she carries around her mysterious hatbox.

The voice of reason in this cadre of simpletons is Peter Flimsey (Steve Iwanski). His straight shooting sophistication is played wonderfully by Mr. Iwanski with an understated English accent. Of all the novelists, he seemed like he could actually think his way out of a paper bag. Think Jeremy Irons mixed with Alex Trebek. I like his thoughtfulness, his style, his movement, and his timing.

Then there's tough guy Chandler Marlow and tough girl Charity Hayes, played admirably by Jim Jensen and Kimberly Anne Cooper respectively. Marlow is comfortable standing on the outskirts of the action, dressed in black, and rattling off a slew of hard nosed detective chatter, while Charity descends upon the group in full Lara Croft leather and pistols ready to lay down some lead and deal with the body count later.

I loved Louie Fan (Jeff Stachowski) with his fake Fu-Manchu mustache and barely passable Asian accent. He spouted one-liner Confucianisms like a bad comedian at a geriatric convention. Mr. Stachowski was great in capturing Louie Fan's ineptitude as he constantly misreads who the killer is, to the point where, in an interplay between him and Peter Flimsey, I thought my wife was going to lose it and pee her pants.

One of the things I like about this piece is that it is filled with characters who are pretending to be real detectives, so it all comes down to the choices the actors make for the choices their detective novelists would make for their detective characters. So if a character flops on stage, is it because the actor didn't give those strong motivations leading to strong character choices, or is it that their characters stunk at playing someone else?

For instance, Father White (Greg Williams) is an Irish priest, but his accent is so thin that it doesn't work well. Mr. Williams plays it well. Does it work? It's hard to say. The novelist's depiction of Father White was just okay.

Jeff Cummings' set design was excellent. Except for a few items where it looked like he may have exhausted his budget, it felt like I could have been looking into a finely apportioned manor sitting room. He paid attention to detail, from the pictures hanging on the walls (well most of them), to the lion statuettes marking the corners of the room, to the little figurines placed in various locations throughout. Plus his use of reds and golds added elegance to the setting. Add a fine staircase and the hidden passageway and this was a visually engaging set.

Costume design (Emily Hunt) was great. I loved the orange and yellow for Louie Fan and that stupid fake mustache. Miss Maple was beautiful and Rita plain, creating a nice contrast.

The director (Byron Holder) is correct when he says in the program, `…the script of this show probably won't win any awards…', but that doesn't matter because he's put together a show that is a lot of fun to watch. Take the time. Spend an evening in Ravenswood Manor. You won't be disappointed.

REVIEWED by Matt Gunther



Mesquite Community Theatre, 1527 N Galloway Ave, Mesquite , TX 75149

Now Through November 7th.

(972) 216-8126 /

Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays – 8:00, Sundays – 2:30, $8-12

update: different site, same review.