(Posted 11 a.m.,
Theatre whodunit keeps audience guessing to the end
By Fred Sherwin
Mercantile, played by Dan Smythe, offers some miracle peanut past to Hazel Nuttes
and Lance O'Menny, played by Cassandra Olsthoorn and Albert-Nicholas Nassrallah,
during the opening scene of Vintage Stock Theatre's "A Case of Murder".
the past two Saturdays the grounds of the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum has
been the scene of murder most foul as the Vintage Stock Theatre Company presents
it's annual murder mystery dinner theatre.
This year's production
is entitled "A Case of Murder" written by Vintage Stock Theatre veteran
John Cook and co-directed by Marni Hunt Stephens and Chris Story who did triple
duty by playing the murder victim and wrote the lyrics for each of the characters'
songs in the final scene.
One thing about outdoor
theatre is that you can control almost every thing except the weather, which the
company found out during the opening night's performance when it poured rain for
the first three scenes.
In the best spirit
of "the show must go on", they performed the first three scenes in the
Vars train station, a tent and the school house respectively before braving the
elements for the actual murder scene. The final scene and the dinner both take
place under a roof.
Fortunately for both
the cast and the audience members, the weather was absolutely perfect for Saturday's
"A Case of Murder"
is set in a small Eastern Ontario town in 1928. A new school teacher has just
arrived and the townspeople are preparing for the annual lemonade and cookie contest.
As in past murder
mystery theatre productions put on by Vintage Stock Theatre, the grounds of the
museum form the set. As you pass through the Vars train station youre handed
a copy of the local paper, The Village Echo, which contains a number of stories
from the period including a few that give some insight into some of the characters
youre about to meet.
The central characters
in "A Case of Murder" are the new school teacher C.W. Jackson, the school
trustee Henry Penn-Pusher, a traveling salesman named Melville Mercantile and
feuding cousins Marion Nettes and Hazel Nuttes who are respectively the reigning
lemonade and cookie champions.
The characters introduce
themselves to the audience and during the opening scene they intersperse with
the crowd. It is the audiences job to interact with the characters and try
and glean as much information from them as possible.
Things start to get
interesting when two young dandies arrive in town looking for a Mr. Vade who supposedly
ripped them off in an investment scheme. One of the young men, Nick Tie, is certain
that the new school teacher is Vade in disguise.
Two brothers have
also arrived in town under the guise that they intend to open a funeral parlour.
And then there's Gigi Goings a "famous" French poet, or so the audience
and Goings all have attaché cases which they seem desperate not to part
with. Over time we learn that Goings case contains school supplies, while Mercantile's
bag holds his miracle remedies. As Jackson goes to pay Mercantile for a certain
amount of school supplies he mistakenly pulls out a thick wad of bills. All of
which are clues to solving the mystery.
Raymond Leville, played by Conan Moore, motions for help after C.W. Jackson, who
is played By Chris Story, falls unconscious will judging the lemonade and cookie
contest. Fred Sherwin/Photo
During the second
scene, the Digger brothers loose their fake beards in a scuffle which is when
the audience finds out that the brothers are actually Sarah and Barbara who only
recently discovered that they are both married to Mercantile. They've come to
town to seek revenge.
The key to deducing
a Vintage Stock Theatre murder mystery production is to be in the right place
at the right time and to overhear the right conversation. It is also helpful to
compare notes with other audience members.
The murder takes
place in the gazebo during the judging of the lemonade and cookie contest. The
new school teacher has been recruited to replace Mercantile as the judge at the
last minute by Henry Penn-Pusher. After making it through the lemonade portion
of the contest, he expires while eating one of the cookies. It is at this point
that we learn that C.W. Jackson is actually Mr. Vade.
By the time Scene
5 takes place in the dining area, the list of potential suspects is almost as
long as the list of characters. It is during Scene 5 that the audience learns
how the characters are all interconnected. For instance, we find out Gigi Goings
is actually the real C.W. Jackson and that her father was Mr.Vade's business partner
who he set up to take the fall for the investment scheme.
Scene VI is also
when dinner is served, which is always one of the highlights of any Vintage Stock
Theatre murder mystery production. Dinner also affords members of the audience
one last chance to question the various characters as they mingle from table to
By the time dessert
is served it is decision time. At my particular table is Ottawa-Orléans MP Royal
Galipeau and his wife Anne Pallascio as well as the producer of this year's play
As you can expect,
Sally wasn't saying anything. Anne and I both think the real C.W. Jackson murdered
Vade out of revenge, while Royal believes Henry Penn-Pusher did the dead because
of his mustache. As it turns out, Anne and I are wrong and Royal and 33 other
audience members are right.
All in all it was
another enjoyable evening both in terms of the production and the dinner which
which was provided by Shaz catering. Fantastic performances were turned in by
the entire cast which included a number of first timers like Cassandra Olsthoorn
who played Hazel Nuttes and Dean Randall who played Penn-Pusher.
Among the other cast
members were Sarah Benfield who played Marion Nettes, Dan Smythe who played Melville
Mercantile, Laura Grunder and Micheline Mathon who played Sarah and Barbara, Jamie
Gummo who played Gigi Goings and Christine Jackson, Albert-Nicholas Nassrallah
who played Lance O'Menny, Nicolas Dubus who played Nick Tie, Karine Longpré who
played Grace Leville and Conan Moore who played the town reeve Raymond Leville.
Vintage Stock Theatre
is already preparing for their annual "Shades of he Evening" series.
This year's production is entitled "Nothing But My Heart".
of the Evening" series is performed on the Cumberland museum grounds entirely
by candlelight and borrows on the history and legends of the local community.
Performances will be held on Sept. 22 and 23 and Sept. 29 and 30. Tickets are
$12 per person and can be ordered by visiting www.vintagestocktheatre.ca or calling
was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local
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