Presented by Therry Dramatic Society of SA Inc.
Reviewed Saturday 24th March 2012
Avoiding the lunacy of competing for patrons during the Fringe and Festival, Therry have waited until the madness has ended before opening their first production of the year, Paul Freed's comedy, murder mystery play, Death by Chocolate. Directed with style by Ian Rigney, the play takes us back to the 1980s, to the Meadowbrook Health Resort in up-state New York. The former owner, Henry Meadowbrook, apparently committed suicide a few weeks earlier and the new owner, Lady Riverdale, who made her fortune through her chocolate business, is about to reopen the resort under its new director, John Stone.
Everything is looking good until the cook, celebrity chef Edith Chiles, suddenly dies, saying as she expires that she has been poisoned. Stone joins forces with Ed Parlor, a guest of Lady Riverdale and writer of mystery plays, to try to find the murderer, but not before another member of the staff is poisoned, seemingly by the contents a box of chocolates left on Stone's desk, chocolates made in Lady Riverdale's factory. There are plenty of suspects to choose from, and just as many red herrings along the way before all is revealed.
Peter Smith, as the sartorially challenged John Stone, and Mason Willis, as the quiet achiever, Ed Parlor do a neat Holmes and Watson double act as they try to track down the murderer. Parlor is writing a play called Death by Chocolate and, as the events unfold, he sees ways of incorporating them into his writing. He also relates the way in which a murder mystery play is written, to what is happening, reminding us all the time that we are watching a play. This device adds a few extra laughs, and they were needed as, although the performance had its moments, on the night that I attended the pace tended to slow at times and the energy levels were not always all that they could have been. The script itself does not help as it is not really that funny.
Angela Short presents us with an elegant but coldly businesslike chocolatier, Lady Riverdale, who is far more concerned about keeping the murders quiet until after the relaunch of the venue than in investigating the crimes. Her secretary, Dyslexia, is played by Jess Rossiter who does the best she can with a character whose entire raison d'être seems to be for Stone to make fun of her name.
The one person they definitely need to keep in the dark is Margaret Daniels, played by Jan Cook, who is a society journalist writing an article on the resort. She turns out to be a more investigative journalist than they had hoped and Daniels does well in the role.
The only bad thing about Sue Wylie's appearance as Edith Chiles is that it is so dreadfully brief. She explodes onto the stage giving the production a big, bright lift and generating a load of laughs, and then is the first to fall victim to the unknown murderer.
The gymnasium manager, the thoroughly unpleasant Ralph Deadwood, who seems an unlikely candidate for the job, is played by Stanley Tuck who brings out all of the foulness of his character.
The aerobics instructor is the effeminate Dick Simmering, a role that gives Chris Meegan a chance to camp it up like mad and inject some much needed laughs. The pneumatic nurse, Anne, is played by Andrea Carr, who also manages to draw some humour out of her role.
The butler, or perhaps he is the handyman, or possibly the old family retainer, is Alfred Mellox, played with a nicely superior and aloof air by theatre stalwart, Tom Carney. Still in residence is “Sweet Pea” Meadowbrook, the grossly overweight daughter of the previous owner, who eats constantly. Tamara Bennetts adds some physical humour as the incomprehensible girl, whose speaking through a permanently full mouth can only be understood by Alfred Mellox.
This was a pleasant enough, but far from outstanding evening of theatre, with some good individual performances, but hampered by the rather dull script.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.
Venue: ARTS Theatre, 53 Angas Street, Adelaide
Season: to Sat 31st March 2012
Duration: 2hrs 15min (no interval)
Tickets: $11 to $25
Bookings: From directly through Therry from 19th March on 8410 5515 (10 am to 5 pm weekdays, noon to 7 pm Saturdays) or via BASS 131 246, BASS outlets, or online, or Venuetix outlets