The cast of "Murder by Bequest," (front row left to right), LaDawn Druce, as Molly Henshaw; Jamie Nelson, as Phillip Chandler; Lisa Kent, as Heavenly Delight; Mary Bailey, as Agatha Crispie; (back row), Allen Auxier, as Niles Henshaw; Yvette Tappana, as Methany Vixen; Glenn Tinker, as Dr. Preston; Dianne Ireland, as Monica Buchanan; and Angie Nelson, as Penelope Prim, rehearse a scene for the upcoming dinner theater performances this weekend at the Kenai Senior Citizens Center.
Photo by Matt Tunseth
There is nothing like a good mystery to whet one's appetite, and this weekend the dinner theater performances of "Murder by Bequest" will give area residents an opportunity to satisfy their hunger pangs and the sleuth in everyone.
The play is the second joint fund-raising project for the Kenai Performers and the Kenai Senior Connections Inc. program. It will feature a full sit-down dinner, cooked and served by the Connections members, followed by the murder mystery farce.
Written and directed by Soldotna High School's Mike Druce, "Murder By Bequest" is a loosely adapted version of Agatha Christie's novel, "Ten Little Indians."
As in the original, the plot focuses on a group of 10 people invited by a mysterious benefactor to a remote island for a weekend getaway. One by one, the guests start turning up dead and become suspicious of each other.
That is where Druce's version veers away and never looks back.
The play moves at a fast clip, uses one-liners, plays on words, innuendoes, sight gags and over-the-top characters to keep the audience's attention and take a comedic look at a genre that is usually dead serious.
"I think, I hope that people will enjoy it," Druce said. "Everyone likes it when the stuffy people get their come uppence."
"Murder by Bequest" fulfills the basic elements necessary to make a mystery intriguing: motive, greed, opportunity, plot twists and a butler.
In this case, the stuffy butler and a saucy maid, Niles and Molly Henshaw, played by Allen Auxier and LaDawn Druce, are a husband and wife team that are in charge of caring for the eclectic group of guests that include Stark Naked, played by Matthew B. Peters, a rock star with questionable musical talents and even more questionable grooming habits; Methany Vixen, a narcissistic actress who believes the world revolves around her, played by Yvette Tappana; Dr. Preston, played by Glenn Tinker, contributes humor but no medical skills when they are needed most; and Heavenly Delight and Phillip Chandler, played by Lisa Kent and Jamie Nelson, are newlyweds who are not so sure the paid trip they are on is what they expected.
Rounding out the guest list is Penelope Prim, played by Angie Nelson, Monica Buchanan, played by Dianne Ireland, and Agatha Crispie, played by Mary Bailey. Prim and Buchanan are the closest thing to "normal" and give balance to the "out there" behaviors of the rest of the guests.
Lisa Kent, playing Heavenly Delight, and LaDawn Druce, as Molly Henshaw, try to figure out who killed Penelope Prim (in chair, played by Angie Nelson) and Methany Vixen (foreground, played by Yvette Tappana) during a rehearsal.
Photo by Matt Tunseth
Meanwhile Crispie, a famous English mystery writer, trys to keep a stiff upper lip and the ever-deepening mystery straight, even though she is clueless as to what's going on.
The performance of "Murder By Bequest" follows Druce's venture last year into directing adult mystery-comedy theater. For the past 12 years he has been the drama teacher at Soldotna High School.
The play was written five years ago as a way to showcase the talent of a group of his students, but he thought it was perfect for this year's fund-raiser, due to its length and opportunity for the actors to run with the characters in such a "broad and silly comedy."
While he has no plans to quit his day job, Druce said he enjoys working with adults because of the depth and life experiences they can bring to their characters and the rapport that they bring to the set.
He hopes the dinner theater fund-raisers become an annual event.
"I look forward to doing it. I hope more people become involved," he said. "There is already a lot of good art taking place in the community and good people working hard to bring it to the stage."
"Murder By Bequest" will be performed Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m. with a Sunday matinee luncheon at 1 p.m. at the Kenai Senior Citizens Center.
The show runs about one hour and dinner will be served prior to the play. Tickets are $20 and available at Charlotte's, River City Books and the Kenai senior center. Seating is limited, and purchasing tickets in advance is suggested. For more information, call Mary Kennedy at 252-4942.
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