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(Posted 6 a.m., Aug. 10)

M is for 'marvelous':
Vintage Stock's latest effort a wonderful whodunit

By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Haydon Smith and Sarah Benfield are just two of the extremely talented cast members in Vintage Stock Theatre's latest murder mystery production 'M is for Murder'. Fred Sherwin/Photo

Drats, foiled again. I've been going to Vintage Stock Theatre's murder mystery production for the past six years now and I have yet to figure out who the murderer is.

"M is for Murder" was supposed to be my chance to break my streak. Instead, Vintage Stock's latest production had me switching suspects every five minutes.

The source of my confusion is the play's author Marni Hunt-Stephens who outdid herself with this latest script. The secret to writing the perfect murder mystery play is to establish a long list of possible suspects with plausible motives.

"M is for Murder" has at least five genuine suspects, any one of whom could have murdered the victim who shall remain nameless in case you decide to go to the encore production of the play this Saturday.

As well-crafted as the script is, it takes a wonderfully talented cast to really hoodwink the audience, and "M" is blessed with a mix of murder mystery veterans like Haydon Smith, who is at his quirky best as a stuttering school teacher with self-esteem issues, and first-timers like Chris Shackleton who is brilliant as Maurice H. Morris.

Among the other veteran Vintage Stock members in the cast are Sarah Benfield who plays the Hollywood starlet Bobbie Kennett; Dan Smythe who plays Horace Lemonby; siblings Sydney and Tyler Smith who play Osmund and Porcelinea Lemonby; Andre Dimitrijevic who plays Anselm Goodman; and Ian McGregor who plays Jaspar Gatsby..

The rest of the cast is rounded out by Amber Boucher who plays Norma-June Dickens; Claudia Carino as Norah Goodman; and Stephens herself who plays Pearl Goodman. Dan Johnston will appear in this weekend's production as Ogden Lemonby.

The play is set in Cumberland Village in 1955 on the eve of the Village Fête which is being organized by Pearl Goodman. Bobbie Kennett is a local girl who ran away to Hollywood to become a movie star.

As the Village Fête is about to take place, Kennett returns to town with her producer Jaspar Gatsby in tow, and his assistant Maurice H. Morris. Horace lemonby has also come to town with the hope of getting his kids in Gatsby's next movie.

As the play progresses, we learn that Lemonby has a history with some of the other characters including the school teacher, Charlton E. Dickens, and his sister Norma-Jean.

I won't give the rest of the play away, but suffice to say all is not what it seems.

As in the past, this year's Vintage Stock Theatre murder mystery production is performed entirely on the grounds of the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum, which allows for lots of space for the actors to do their thing and for the audience to interact and ask questions. This leads to a great deal of improv, which is when the cast is at their best.

Tickets for "M is for Murder", which include a wonderfully catered dinner in the museum's picnic shelter, are available on the Vintage Theatre website at www.vintagestock.on.ca.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)



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