Staff photo/Heather Spaulding. Scott Dow as Walter Peirce.

Staff photo/Heather Spaulding. Scott Dow as Walter Peirce.

Death and laughter

The plucky Irish maid of an English manor suddenly gets an opportunity she has dreamed of, solving a murder, when one of the guests, is murdered. This is the plot for the play, “Death by Design.”

“I was looking for a quirky comedy to present, ” director Joy Van Camp said, and this witty pun-filled play filled that description.

“Death by Design” opens at the San Juan Community Theatre at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 15. The show continues Saturday, Feb. 16, Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 21-23 and Feb. 28-March 2 at 7:30 p.m., as well as Sunday matinees Feb. 17 and 24 and March 3 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are available at sjctheatre.org or by calling 360-378-3210. Prices range from adults at $23, student reserved for $12 and student rush, at the door only, is $5. Thursdays are pay what you can at the door.

The cast is small and features names many islanders will recognize: Johnny Berk as Jack, the chauffeur; Scott Dow plays Walter Pearce, a parliamentarian; Mason Turnage is Eric, the radical organizer; Heather Mueller is Victoria Van Roth, and Naomi Boydston plays Alice. Van Camp also expressed gratitude to the many behind the scenes volunteers. Deb Langan’s as the dialect coach; Megan Kilpatrick-Boe and Trudy Louks designed the costumes; Sandy May is the set designer; Ted Soares did props and set dressing; Steve Judson, lighting; John Shaller, sound; Lisa Dike, choreography; Cole Arendt is the stage manager; Theresa White, assistant stage manager; and Carolyn Haugen as assistant director all saved the day, according to Van Camp.

The performance takes place in the Gubelman room, which gives the audience an intimate view and allows them to see all the pertinent details up close.

While the show runs the weekend of Valentine’s Day – a holiday of love – and there is romance in the tale, Van Camp said it isn’t the kind of affair anyone would want to emulate.

Written by American playwright Robert Urbinati, “Death by Design” is a spin-off of English whodunits, and has been described as a Noel Coward and Agatha Christie mashup. The homage to two well-known mystery authors appealed to Van Camp. She thought it would give the people in the local audience who may have not experienced British mystery-comedy the chance to be exposed to such a unique genre.

“Everything is presented lightheartedly,” Van Camp said. The play is appropriate for most ages; however, under 10 years old may not understand the humor.

The story begins after playwright Edward Bennett (Sean McLaughlin) and his wife, actress Sorel Bennett (Stacy Worcester), flee London after the Bennett’s latest play has a disastrous opening night. Other guests arrive, including a conservative politician, a fiery socialist, a nearsighted ingénue and a zany modern dancer. These characters each carry their own deep secret. After one of them turns up murdered, Bridgit, played by Shannon Kelley, the maid tests her crime-solving abilities.

“Bridgit is bored with her rural existence and entertains herself with tabloid accounts of murders,” Van Camp explained, and Bridgit secretly thinks she could solve them more efficiently than the local constabulary.

“There is a lot of satire in the play. Both sides of the political spectrum, marriage, art, popular culture and even our collective interest in all things homicidal,” Van Camp said.

For more information, visit sjctheatre.org.

 

Staff photo/Heather Spaulding. Shannon Kelley as Bridget.

Staff photo/Heather Spaulding. Shannon Kelley as Bridget.

Staff photo/Heather Spaulding. Shannon Kelley as Bridget.

Staff photo/Heather Spaulding. Shannon Kelley as Bridget.

Staff photo/Heather Spaulding. Sean Mclaughlin.

Staff photo/Heather Spaulding. Sean Mclaughlin.

Staff photoS/Heather Spaulding 
                                Top: Shannon Kelley and Mason Turnage. Middle right: Shannon Kelley as Bridget. Middle left: Heather Mueller and Johnny Berk. Bottom: Sean McLaughlin, Shannon Kelley, Johnny Berk, and Naomi Boydston.

Staff photoS/Heather Spaulding Top: Shannon Kelley and Mason Turnage. Middle right: Shannon Kelley as Bridget. Middle left: Heather Mueller and Johnny Berk. Bottom: Sean McLaughlin, Shannon Kelley, Johnny Berk, and Naomi Boydston.

Staff photo/Heather Spaulding. Heather Mueller and Johnny Berk.

Staff photo/Heather Spaulding. Heather Mueller and Johnny Berk.

Staff photo/Heather Spaulding. Shannon Kelley, Johnny Berk, and Naomi Boydston.

Staff photo/Heather Spaulding. Shannon Kelley, Johnny Berk, and Naomi Boydston.