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Whodunit is a fun ride in Eastpointe

By |2011-10-27T09:00:00-04:00October 27th, 2011|Entertainment|

Now in its 18th season, Eastpointe’s Broadway Onstage Live Theatre, the home of Dennis Wickline Productions, has carved a comfortable niche for itself in southern Macomb County. With little competition nearby, the professional non-Equity theater has cornered the market with regular servings of murder mysteries, audience participation plays and a healthy handful of scripts by Wickline himself. Shakespeare they ain’t, but the entertaining productions have developed a devoted audience that eagerly keeps the doors open and the actors busy plying their trade.
So there I was Saturday night surrounded by Red Hat ladies and running a 101-degree temperature, wishing I was home in bed. Instead, with my head thumping and stifling a cough, I was prepped to be mildly entertained by Wickline’s “Murder Me, Murder Me, My Darling, My Darling” – but instead the production is by far the most enjoyable I’ve seen there yet!
Caretaker Dagwood Patch (Patrick O’Lear) welcomes honeymooners Henry (Ken Karges) and Luvonne (Lauren Fuller) Adamson to room 27 of the Pinecone Resort just outside Traverse City. The room is a bit rustic for Henry’s tastes, but since it is supposedly where his bride’s parents honeymooned three decades or so earlier, he somewhat good-naturedly goes along with the plan. At least, that is, until the night’s festivities are intruded upon by the unexpected arrival of psychic Lucretia Malvenia (CeCe Lesner). Although she has their last name wrong, Lucretia seems to know a lot about the well-to-do couple. But when she agrees to foretell their future, she suddenly proclaims, “Someone will be murdered in this room tonight, and if I do not leave, it will be me!”
Well, she leaves – and, as predicted, the dead person turns out NOT to be her. So score one for Lucretia. But poor Luvonne; she’s not so lucky. Shortly thereafter, Henry hears a scream in the bathroom and finds his beautiful wife in a pool of blood with her throat slit.
As you might imagine, all is not what it seems.
Much of the information the audience needs to know in order to figure out whodunit is shared by Dagwood, who also serves as the narrator. But he’s not the only one to break the “fourth wall” during the course of the show. And during intermission, all four characters work the crowd pleading their innocence, leading up to a secret vote by the audience to determine the show’s outcome in act two.
In general, I’m not a fan of audience participation plays. As a critic – and even as a regular theatergoer – I prefer to be left alone and not become a part of the unfolding story. But here, the actors are rather unobtrusive – and their playful bickering amongst themselves at intermission is cute.
But more importantly, Wickline’s script is very carefully constructed. Information dribbles out in perfect proportions, and the plot holds together quite well, even when the solution is revealed at the end. (That’s not always the case with murder mysteries.)
Director Jane Burkey has an eye for casting. O’Lear not only looks the part of an up-north innkeeper, he also handles the audience participation parts of the show quite well. Karges and Fuller are totally believable as the handsome newlyweds, while Lesner avoids turning Lucretia into a stereotype, which helps sell the character and her potential innocence to the audience. (Remember: Everyone is a suspect!)
So how did I do, you might be wondering? Both my first and second choices were wrong. But I had a lot of fun arriving at my decision – and then enjoying the wild ride to its surprising conclusion!

‘Murder Me, Murder Me, My Darling, My Darling’
Broadway Onstage, 21517 Kelly Road, Eastpointe. Through Nov. 19. $16. 586-771-6333.

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