Firefighters to stage 'The Butler Did It' Mystery-comedy benefits new truck CARROLL COUNTY DIVERSIONS

April 16, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

The guests sat in the parlor of a mysterious manor, drinking sherry poured by a brooding hostess.

Suddenly, a blood-curdling shriek split the stormy night.

Was this London, at the turn of the century?

No. It's Manchester 1993.

Carrying on a tradition that goes back more than 50 years, the Manchester volunteer fire company is putting on its annual play. The company will perform "The Butler Did It" in the Manchester Fire Hall, tonight through Sunday.

The play is a fund-raiser for the fire company, which is raising money toward the purchase of a new $250,000 pumper truck.

It's also a murder mystery-comedy, said Bobbi Vinson, one of the players who claimed to be "haphazardly directing."

Written by Tim Kelly, "The Butler Did It" features a motley collection of mystery writers who go to Ravenwood Manor for a weekend house party masquerading as their fictional sleuths. They are stock mystery characters. There's a Miss Marple type, a "Father Dowling," a "Philip Marlowe" and a "Charlie Chan."

The play is intended to be funny in a corny way. And it can be fun to listen for local references that pepper the script, such as the mention of a mystery novel titled "The Murders at Miller's Market."

The players seem intent on having a good time.

All of the male players and one of the female players are firefighters, said Gary Eppley. He plays Chandler Marlowe, a writer of mysteries that feature trench coat-clad heroes.

At a rehearsal Monday night, the corpse did not attend; he didn't have many speaking lines to practice. So, actress Mary Burke, who plays the housemaid, shanghaied her son Billy, the sound man, to fill in as the corpse's understudy.

"Be a dead person, Hon," she said.

Steve Hossler, who plays author Peter Flimsey, said this is his third year as a cast member in the fire company's annual production.

"I enjoy it," he said. "The first year, I was scared to death."

This year's play is being staged later than usual, he said. If it had been presented at the usual time, it would have been pre-empted by the Blizzard of '93.

Mr. Hossler said the firehouse actors in previous years have written graffiti on the wall behind the set. Some of the messages date to the 1930s.

Mr. Eppley said the fire company's Ladies' Auxiliary used to put on the play, but decided not to do it this year.

"The firemen jumped in," he said, "and we took it over. This is how [County Commissioner] Elmer Lippy got his start."

Performances are at 8 p.m. today and tomorrow, and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, in the Manchester Fire Hall on Main Street. Tickets, $3.50 for adults or $1.50 for children ages 6 to 12, are available at the door. Children 5 and under will be admitted free.

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