Play review: Mystery & Murder

Candlelight Theatre continues to delight with its latest trio of plays at the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site. The theme is Mystery and Murder. Two of the plays deal with murders in 1897 and 1949 respectively. The third play covers the mysterious appearance of a long-gone father in 1889.

As usual the acting is superb. I recognized several of the actors from previous performances, which lent a familiar continuity to the Candlelight Theatre productions: Donna Wing, Ellis Hall, Ken Eder, and Sue Beecher.

The intimate setting—in various rooms of a late 19th century home—adds to the time setting of the plays. The close quarters, which brings the actors within feet of the audience, increases the experience created by the acting.

Two of the plays—the ones about murder—were written by the resident playwright, James Trofatter. The Cameo Murders is a whodunnit. A string of women end up killed and pieces of their jewelry missing. Suspicion falls on one person and then another. The doctor? The husband? The wife? Someone else? The play was masterfully written and executed.

The Proposition also does not end as expected. A long-suffering wife sets out to entice one of her husband’s lovers to kill him. She has the murder meticulously planned out. Only it doesn’t end how the lover suspects. Or how the audience does.

Picture Imperfect does not involve a murder but a ghostly apparition of a father who vanished years earlier. A medical student is driven to distraction by a painting that his beloved sister made of their home. Clearly home sick, he imagines a strange man in the painting, then entering their house. The man appears in his own dwelling at school and is none other than his father, the father he never knew.

All three plays are performed in different rooms of the house with the audience moving between rooms at the conclusion of each play. The host of the room I was in chatted with the audience before and between performances, answering any questions the audience had.

I mentioned to her the picture I had seen of Old Whiskers, the goat President Harrison kept at the White House for his grandchildren. At the end of the night, our room host surprised me by indicating that the picture was housed in the room next to the one we were in and I could pop in to take a look. Such a delightful gift—a private viewing of the goat picture at the Benjamin Harrison house!

If you have a chance, stop by the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site to take in a Candlelight Theatre performance. The troupe performs mostly original plays every April and October. And maybe you’ll get a chance to view Old Whiskers.

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