Done to Death is a delight for the mystery lover and comedy lover alike, as it parodies almost every type of mystery story and leaves the audience member in stitches. The Mines Little Theatre’s first full production of the season, Done to Death was a resounding success.
|Chris Enger / Oredigger|
The play tells the story of five washed-up mystery writers and their extraordinary adventure as they try to reinvent themselves. Each writer is recognizable as a mystery archetype, setting them up for parody. The first two writers are Jessica and Whitney Olive, portrayed by Kayla Boos and Kyle Gough respectively. Boos and Gough represent a couple who write novels about wealthy, sophisticated, heavy drinking characters like themselves. The third writer is Mildred Z. Maxwell, portrayed by Kate Robertson van Susante, and writes classic murder mysteries distinguished by their surprise endings. The fourth is the Rodney Duckton, played by Travis Bybee. Duckton is an old screenwriter of the 1920’s and 1930’s who first specialized in horror and later in classic hard-hitting detective plots. The final writer of the group is Brad Benedict, played by Alex Dell, who writes gadget-and-girl-filled CIA novels reminiscent of James Bond.
As the first act begins, each of these characters has come to a TV set in order to collaborate on a new show. The audience is introduced to the characters as they arrive, who introduce themselves to one another and speculate on why they have been called there. Soon after, studio executive Jason Summers, played by Will Spaeth, arrives and explains to the writers why they are there and points out that there is an audience watching them collaborate. He proposes they write a plot based on a common motive to get their creative juices flowing. This angers all the writers, who hate games, and they spend the time making fun of each other’s plots by acting them out with the help of a few generic actors, played by Amanda Bowers and Nathan Skinner. These parodies are among the funnier parts of the play. This flusters Summers, who announces that the TV show is over and that the authors will be transported to an island where a real version of the set exists in order to write thirteen plots for a TV show. The audience is suddenly on the island and being introduced to Gregory (Tyler Orr) and Jane (Madison Hass), the servants at this house. To end Act I, the authors come in, and the body of Mr. Summers falls out of a closet!
Chris Enger / Oredigger
Act II opens on a shocking note, as the authors realize they hate actual murder. It is so shocking, in fact, that Rodney Duckton faints! As the authors begin to try to ascertain who committed the murder, each one attempts to solve the case as their characters would. First, Rodney Duckton concludes that Gregory did it, and immediately Gregory is killed. Next, the Olives are determined that Jane committed the murder, and Jane is murdered. Third, Brad Benedict concludes Rodney Duckton did it, but refuses to say so because all previously accused murder suspects have been the next to die. But, of course, Brad Benedict dies. Finally, Mildred Maxwell concludes that the Olives collaborated to murder everyone. She is then electrocuted by a typewriter. The Olives quickly accuse each other and conclude neither of them did it. They drink poisoned wine and die. As they are dying, Jason Summers reappears, or actually his twin appears. As soon as the Olives “die,” Summers calls them all back out; no one actually died. It was all a publicity stunt. Then, the box office boy comes on stage and dies to end the show. Despite the seemingly macabre second act, the play maintains a light attitude, as the writers constantly make fun of each other and their predictable situation.
The play was very well done and an excellent season opener for Mines Little Theatre. Although there were a few tentative moments, the chemistry of the cast and their obvious preparation far overshadowed it. Judging by audience reactions, they felt the same way, as the laughter was uproarious and the applause was both spontaneous and hearty. As one of Rodney Duckton’s characters would say, “It was good, all good.”