ALEXANDRIA, VA – If you’re looking for a whodunit – something crafty, clever and comedic – look no further than Design for Murder. It’s got all the elements necessary to curdle your blood and engage your brain. This nifty mystery has more twists and turns and schools of red herrings than you can count. In fact, no matter who you think is doing the killing, you will undoubtedly be mistaken because it takes until the final scene before all is revealed. It’s a nailbiter on steroids.
Mourning her late husband, is Celia Granger (Kathy Ohlhaber), an elegant châtelaine whose drawing room is center stage for all the chaos. The first to be knocked off is Kathy (Elizabeth Loyal), a flirty maid who is having a fling with David Granger (James Lorenzin), Celia’s son and scion to the family fortune, or what’s left of it. We never meet Eunice, David’s fiancé, a Southern belle with buckets of dough and whom he refuses to marry – much to the dismay of his dear, sweet mother who’s counting on all that cash to bail them out. Louisa Cortlandt (Janice Zucker), Celia’s gal pal and astrology dabbler, has her own kooky opinions which are taken quite seriously because she’s married to a judge which gives the doddering old lady credibility plus favored social standing. Martha Brand (Erin Gallalee), Celia’s sister, mocks the septuagenarian, but all defer to her vaunted status in a town where keeping up appearances is de rigeur.
We are soon introduced to Carlin (Brendan Chaney), the chauffeur and terminal Lothario who pitches woo to every woman in the household including the aged housekeeper, Mrs. Hamilton (Patricia Spencer Smith). Maybe he’s just sharpening his chauvinistic skills for the next maid, Nora Taylor (Pete Leggett), a pretty little waif (too pretty according to Celia) who appeals to the Grangers’ sympathy and begs for the job after it’s vacated by Kathy’s untimely demise. For Chrissake! Who would want to work there? Don’t answer that.
Everyone’s a suspect and motives seem to pop out of the woodwork at the old Hudson Valley estate. Enter Detective Carlin (Brendan Chaney), an ersatz Columbo, replete with trench coat and questions for Celia, a woman he knew and secretly loved when she was a girl. Carlin’s on the case like a bloodhound, but will he get to the bottom of it with this hodgepodge of addled suspects? Wait and see. Though it’s a wonder anything gets sorted in a house where brandy is consumed for every shocking revelation.
Director Jessie Roberts has assembled a fine cast who mesh beautifully with one another, leading the ever-heightening suspense to its ultimate denouément. Especially outstanding are Kathy Ohlhaber, Patricia Spencer Smith, Pete Leggett and Brendan Chaney.
Additional cast member, Frank Cooper.
Produced by Carol Strachan with Hilary Adams as Assistant Producer; Fight Choreography by Stefan Sittig; Set Design by Julie Fischer; Lighting Design by Cleo Potter and Jay Stein; Costume Design by Judy Whelihan.
Through November 5th at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. For tickets and information visit www.TheLittleTheatre.com or call the box office at 703 683-0496.