By Thom deMartino
Which is worse: one’s impending death, or the conscious dread and anticipation of it?
Seeking to answer that question are the players of the Westminister Community Playhouse, with their production of Agatha Christie’s “A Murder Is Announced.”
Dora “Bunny” Bunner (Maria O’Connor) discovers an advertisement in the local paper of the quiet English town of Chipping Cleghorn of a murder to occur that very evening in Little Paddocks, where she resides with her friend (and the proprietor) Miss Lettia Blacklock (Sarah Hoeven) along with Blacklock’s visiting niece Julia (Jaylyn Kahle), nephew Patrick (Tim Brennan), and lodger Phillipa Haymes (Julie Ray.)
While the family finds themselves skeptical of the announcement’s validity, it also attracts the attention of the histrionic maid Mitzi (Joylnn Jones-Ibanez) and town sleuth Miss Marple (Laurie Robbins,) as well as the local busybodies Mrs. Clara Swettenham (Suzanne Grady) and her son Edmund (Josiah Canto), who can’t help but intrude in curiosity as the appointed hour approaches.
The clock strikes – as does the murderer. Soon after, the unflappable (and occasionally obtuse) Inspector Craddook (Joel Ray Ibanez) and the assisting Sergeant Mellors (Michael Crumley) struggle to puzzle out – with the invaluable assistance of the astute Miss Marple, of course – the mystery of what occurred, the identity of the killer, and just who may be next.
If you’ve never experienced community theater before, the Westminister Community Playhouse is a splendid place to begin: the troupe was founded more than 50 years ago, and the theater itself has been hosting productions since 1974 (the organization is also a non-profit, that relies on the patronage of the audience.) While perhaps not always as polished as some venues, the familial camaraderie and dedication of the actors to their craft – and the play itself – radiates through.
There are a number of stand-out performances, particularly from Sarah Hoeven as the quick-witted “Letty” Blacklock, possible target of the killer, and Joylnn Jones-Ibanez as the over-the-top Russian maid Mitzi, who at first may play on the audience’s nerves, but comes to endear herself to them by the end.
“It’s been a joy,” says Hoeven, when asked about her experience on the production. “It’s a real ensemble show, everybody’s in the boat, pulling their weight equally… and then you’ve got Priscilla (Gonzalez) as the director — she’s been a good, solid director for us.
“Being in this show has been a delightful opportunity, and truly a pleasure to work with such a talented group of people.”
Keeping you guessing all the way till the end, “A Murder Is Announced” is a treat for theater-goers both young and old, and an excellent introduction to the world of community theater.
Categories: Arts & Leisure