The UTM Forensic Society hosted their annual Murder Mystery Charity Play this past Wednesday at Theatre Erindale. This year, with the help of UTM Drama Club, it was a mix of UTM students from different backgrounds of study and a couple of off-campus crew members and actors who brought Ken Ludwig’s award-winning play The Game’s Afoot to the stage.
The Game’s Afoot has a mixed genre of mystery and comedy and is based on an early 20th-century American actor, William Gillette, who also famously cowrote the very first Sherlock Holmes play. Ludwig incorporates some factual aspects of Gillette’s life but the play is mostly fiction. It centres on Gillette, an actor who tries to solve a murder. However, he doesn’t do this as himself but rather as the character Sherlock Holmes, whom he happens to play on the stage.
Ioana Luchian did a phenomenal job directing this year’s Forensic Society play and brought together a cast and crew who successfully performed Ludwig’s comedic play.
Anton Serbin gave a good performance as the well-established Broadway actor William Gillette. It is December 1936 and the height of Gillette’s career when he invites his cast members over for a Christmas Eve dinner at his lavish mansion in Connecticut. However, seasoned New York gossip columnist and theatre critic Daria Chase (Bianca Carvalho) unexpectedly shows up to write her next story on Gillette.
Chase, who tends to focus on the personal lives of the actors rather than their performances, is not well-liked by the other guests. Through her constant banter Chase tells the cast they give her “endless things to write about” and further expresses how she feels it is as though she has simply invented them all for this specific purpose. She does however drop a bomb when she ends up revealing the recent news of a murder that just took place at their theatre company.
Keegan Bulloch-Crough made the audience laugh throughout his performance as Martha, Gillette’s mother. The choice to have a male actor play a female role worked really well and added more comedic appeal to an already funny play. She essentially gets the party started by bringing out a tray full of booze. Of course, with drinks flowing in a room full of thespians, different conversations filled with drama take over the stage.
Martha, the outspoken, overbearing mother, draws out some of this drama by questioning widow Aggie Wheeler (Alma Sarai) about the tragic death of Hugo, her late millionaire husband. Wheeler reveals to the guests shortly after that she has remarried only a few weeks earlier to Simon Bright (Chris Hemming), who is also a fellow actor at the theatre.
Chase, who is convinced that she is a medium and can speak to her dead grandmother Lucretzia, convinces the guests to gather around a table for a séance, which she plans to conduct. The table jolts a few times and Lucretzia’s spirit possesses Madge Geisal’s (Rachel Lebovic) body. Under Lucretzia’s control, her finger points to Simon and Aggie as the ones who murdered the person in the theatre. Of course, both of them deny these accusations.
Then comes the sudden death of Chase, who is stabbed in the back by a mysterious person the audience is not able to see. Though Gillette was in the room when Chase was struggling, he’s too involved in solving the theatre murder as Sherlock Holmes to fully understand her cry for help.
Gillette’s good friend Felix Geisal (Saad Ilyas) enters the stage to find Gillette with the now deceased Chase. While both try to figure out what to do with the body, Inspector Goring (Hannah Gilbert) shows up at the house to question the guests on the recent murder at the theatre.
Gilbert, with a well-articulated British accent, was an interesting actress to watch. Her character admits that she too was once an aspiring actress and hilariously performs small theatre monologues for the guests throughout her investigation. Inspector Goring’s arrival obviously gets Gillette and Geisal scurrying to try and figure out where to hide Chase’s corpse, which was hilarious.
There were a few slight malfunctions in the production, such as the turning bookcase falling over, a glass of wine falling on the floor, and the poor crew manoeuvering that secret turning bookcase at a snail’s pace. However, what I enjoyed about this cast was their humorous improvisational skills and their acting abilities to make every scene run smoothly into the next. The show must go on, as they say, and the cast clearly handled these malfunctions well.
“It was an exhilarating experience,” said first-year humanities student Anton Serbin. “The cast and crew had a lot of fun putting this play onstage.”
As the night came to an end, host Tiffany Lee, president of UTM’s Forensic Society, said proceeds from the ticket sales would be donated to the Missing Children Society of Canada, a charity whose mission is to reunite missing children with their searching families.
The forensic society has put on a play for a charitable cause as their last event of the year for almost a decade. In the past, the Murder Mystery play has been accompanied by dinner at the Blind Duck Pub, but Lee explains that last year the society decided to host only a charity play at the Mist Theatre without a dinner, and “realized for the first time that having a more full-on production seemed to work a lot more”.
One of the ways the MCSC encourages participation is through social media in the World’s Most Valuable Network via a project dubbed “Milk Carton 2.0”. The project allows you to “play an active role in the first-ever online search party when a child goes missing in your community”. If you are interested in getting involved please visit valuableproject.ca for several ways you can help find a missing child today.