Theater lends intimate setting to informal mystery

Interactive play turns audience members into would-be detectives

Review

Arundel Live

November 01, 2001|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Legend of Creepy Hollow is a zany, play-as-you-go murder mystery.

This interactive show, presented by Do or Die Productions Saturday attracted an enthusiastic audience of about 40 would-be detectives to the Studio Theater at Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts. The intimate theater lends itself to informal presentations that allow the actors to mingle easily with the audience, exchanging pleasantries that might contain valuable clues.

All seven actors remained in character throughout the evening, playing Creepy Hollow neighbors living in a town famous for its cursed Craven family. Upon entering the theater, audience members learn that they have become part of a fund-raiser for mayoral candidate Ichobad Strane (Robert Neal Marshall).

The sleazy candidate chose to hold his party in a building in which a grisly murder took place 20 years earlier. The victim was novelist Tabitha Craven (C.J. Crowe), now a ghostly writer present but unseen by most cast members as she tries to identify her murderer.

Tabitha's childlike, naive daughter Lizzie Craven (Starr Lucas), who is also candidate Strane's former girlfriend, is present.

Only 9 years old when her mother was murdered, Lizzie clutches her angel doll, fervently believing that angels exist everywhere.

Strane's most generous financial supporter is Darcy Valiant (Bernadette Arvidson), who drifts in and out of reality.

Darcy owns a farm where she invites most of the audience to come share her exotic herbs.

The current Creepy Hollow mayor, Donald Shaffer (William Huttel), drops in on the fund-raiser hoping to gain a few supporters. New in town, reporter Earl Faust (Thomas Plott) seems weird as he accuses Ichobad Strane of Tabitha's murder.

Police detective Justin Case (Phil Pomeroy) has been invited by victim Tabitha Craven to help her determine the identity of her murderer. After Strane's welcoming remarks, Case conducts an investigation into the 20-year-old crime.

Actors drift into the audience, hinting at suspects' motives, giving clues casting suspicion on themselves and everyone else. Mayor Shaffer might have murdered Tabitha because his father, the sheriff, became an alcoholic after her murder, indicating that he suspected his son did it.

Case is convinced that Strane is the murderer. But why would Strane's ex-girlfriend Lizzie have been involved with her mother's murder?

Ghost Tabitha constantly flutters about slinging insults and casting suspicion on everyone.

From this tangled web of clues, Ichobad Strane emerges to confess that he killed Tabitha. Then it is discovered that Detective Case has been mortally wounded.

When the audience then tries to figure out who killed detective Case, the fun mounts as audience members take turns explaining their theories. The audience interacts with the cast and changes the course of the drama.

Not only are the actors a team helping each other stay in character, but some seem to have formed a repertory company.

Actors Arvidson and Marshall, recently seen in Pasadena Theatre Company's Plaza Suite, seem to be moving in this direction.

Do or Die Productions is headed by its creator and writer C.J. Crowe, who also serves as the Chesapeake Center's full-time director of operations. Do or Die Productions stages murder mystery performances at least every other month at the center.

The next Do or Die production, Slay Ride, is scheduled for Dec. 15. Call the center at 410-636-6597 for details.

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