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Bowie Community Theatre Who Dunit?

By • Sep 27th, 2010 • Category: Reviews
Who Dunit? by C.B. Gilford
Bowie Community Theatre
Bowie Playhouse, Bowie, MD
Through October 2nd
2:10 with two intermissions
$17/$12 Seniors and Students
Reviewed September 19th, 2010

What happens when a famous mystery writer is murdered, goes to Heaven and discovers that not even Saint Michael knows who murdered him? There’s only one answer: Saint Michael sends him back to earth to relive the past twenty-four hours of his life in order to solve the murder before it is committed. The writer realizes that everybody he knows has a good reason to kill him! And then – is he just going to sit there and let it happen a second time? So the writer must outwit both the murderer and the Archangel Michael.

I personally love murder mysteries. My wife and I host a murder mystery party annually, so I was really looking forward to this show. I wasn’t expecting deep, dark secrets; or Shakespeare. I was expecting a cute little story with a few obvious plot twists to keep the audience guessing. What I got was a wonderfully performed mystery with enough twists and turns to make my head spin. And at the end I guessed wrong who dunnit.

Mystery writer Alexander Arlington was played by Jim Estepp with just enough confidence and spirit to be a nice guy. He could have been played as a jerk, overbearing and annoying. But Estepp’s Arlington was likable, and as he kept discovering the plots around him it was both amusing and horrifying. His nephew (Justin Hall), fiance (Caity Brown), personal assistant (Kate Wheeler), house manager (Gayle Carney), gardener (Ken Kienas) and others all had their own little wheeling and dealing going on, and they all played their part in the mystery quite well.

The action took place in Arlington’s study, a work area littered with various devices that can be used to murder someone, that presumably Arlington used for inspiration while workign on his novels. Two scenes took place in Heaven, in front of the main curtain. The lighting was supposed to represent clouds perhaps, but it was far too dark, with odd shadows appearing on actors’ faces interfering with the enjoying the scene. And some of John Nunemaker’s sound effects and underscoring were too loud or distracting from the action on stage. A lighter touch on the volume would be appreciated. The thunder and lightning effects late in the show were very well done.

During the second intermission, you get to vote on who you think did it. And at the end of the play, those who guessed correctly have a chance to win a prize. Only nine people of over 100 guessed correctly at the performance I attended. But enjoy yourself, the prize isn’t the important thing here. This is a play – have fun with it! The cast and crew at the Bowie Community Theatre certainly did!

Director’s Notes

Who Dunit? There are dozens of shows with this title, spelled differently, with different story lines, different characters, different playwrights, and different endings. All have the same theme though-the bad guy/girl isn’t known to the audience until the final pages of the script. thus the title-WhoDidIt? or Who Dunit? This version is no different from the dozens of other murder mysteries-you, the audience, have the distinct pleasure of figuring out who the culprit is.

This play was originally a short story in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in the 1950’s and was later a hit on “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” I could have left it in it’s original form, using 1950s costumes, furnishings, and outdated electronic devices. However, I found that the play needed updating to be more appealing to today’s astute and savvy audiences. It was my intention to remain true to the story that the playwright had written, so I kept the story line intact (copyright regulations considered), and updated only the time period, costumes, and electronic developments of today. Therefore you will see cell phones instead of rotary dial phones; PDAs instead of massive record books; angels with backpacks instead of harps, and a few other 21st century upgrades. Also some of the characters have undergone an upgrade – the maid is now the House Manager and the secretary/stenographer is now the Personal Assistant. Hopefully, these upgrades will enhance your enjoyment of a mystery that you need to solve.

My enjoyment of this play began with auditions and has continued throughout the entire rehearsal period. I would like to express my profound gratitude to my Producer, John Nunemaker, and Assistant Producer Joanne Bauer, for providing the support and hard work necessary to find the team of designers and production staff t get this how on its feet and ready for you, the audience. I also want to offer my heartfelt thanks to my Stage Manager Kate McMechen, who has been there every step of the way. And, finally, to my incredible cast-thanks for putting up with all my changes, my ridiculous requests and my many ways to drive you crazy. You rose to the challenge and I love you for it. You’ve given me more than I could have ever expected or even anticipated. And, I know the audiences will agree.

Enjoy the show, and have fun trying to figure out Who Dunit?!

Cindy Bentley, Director

Photo Gallery

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Photos provided by Bowie Community Theatre.

Cast

  • Alexander Arlington: Jim Estepp
  • Muriel: Krista Setera
  • Isaac: Christian Hodges/Kyle O’Riley
  • Michael: Jack Degnan
  • Annie: Gayle Carney
  • Harry: Ken Kienas
  • Miss Jenkins: Kate Wheeler
  • Andrew: Justin Hall
  • Vivian Odell: Caity Brown
  • George Brewster: Michael Hite
  • Flo: Barbara Webster

Crew

  • Producer: John Nunemaker
  • Director: Cynthia Bentley
  • Stage Manager: Kate McMechen
  • Assistant Producer: Joanne Bauer
  • Master Electrician: Garrett Hyde
  • Stage Crew: Gail Gerlach, Kyle O’Riley
  • Set Construction Supervisor: Patrick Ready
  • Set Construction Crew: Cynthia Bentley, Ken Kienas, Keith Brown, Garrett Hyde, John Nunemaker, Mike Dunlop
  • Set Painting: Cynthia Bentley, Joanne Bauer, Gayle Carney, Ken Kienas
  • Set Dressing: Jennifer Harvey, Joanne Bauer
  • Properties: Jennifer Harvey, Joanne Bauer
  • Light Designer: Garrett Hyde
  • Sound Designer: John Nunemaker
  • Costumes: Linda Kirby
  • Theater Technicians: Garrett Hyde, Al Chopey, Pete Dursin
  • Mailing Administrator: Galen Menne
  • Photographer: Fred Bentley
  • Videographer: Mike Dunlop, Dove Video
  • Graphic/Program Designer: Debbie Samek
  • Advertising/Publicity: Debbie Samek, Estelle Miller
  • Webmaster: Myron Cramer
  • House Manager: Joanne Bauer
  • Lobby Designer: John Nunemaker

Disclaimer: Bowie Community Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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has performed in local productions, but prefers to be behind the scenes. Mike earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and the Online News Association.

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