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Home Arts & Culture Review: “Murder by the Book” is Deathly Entertaining

by Jayme Lowe

 

The Concordia theatre department’s “Murder by the Book” by Craig Sodaro was a rollicking good time, filled with literary puns, tearful (from laughter) death scenes and exemplary acting.

This year’s spring play, “Murder by the Book” contained surprises, death and a helping of literary references. The cast was led by junior Ben Leeper as Edgar Allen Poe, the founder of the infamous Raven Society. Other cast members included freshman Josh Brumm as Mark Twain, junior Emily Kollbaum as Charlotte Bronte, freshman Matty Luehr as Louisa Mae Alcott, junior Brianna Bossle as Mary Shelley, senior Collin Christiansen as Arthur Conan Doyle, senior Elyssia Finch as Agatha Christie, sophomore Cadence Klemp as Emily Dickinson, senior Mason Koeritz as William Shakespeare and sophomore Andrea Wiese as Violia Danglon, the maid.

The plot of the play centered on a string of murders among The Raven Society. A mysterious note had been sent to them proclaiming that they would all die “by their own words.”

By the first half, two authors were already dead, and their causes of death rang eerily similar to deaths they had written. The others worked furiously to find the culprit, who could have been any one of them. Christie and Poe lead the hunt as the other characters attended to their own affairs. Violia Danglon, the maid, caused havoc with her rolling pin and tea tray, often frightening the wits out of the authors around her.  However, the deducting mastery of Agatha Christie could not be beaten, and the real crooks were outed in the end.

“My favorite part of being involved was getting to meet all the other actors,” Luehr said. “They’re not people that I would normally meet, so getting to know them was really fun. It’s not an everyday experience. I would love to continue being involved. Now that I know people, it will be fun if I’m helping with costumes or with set or onstage.”

Brumm’s portrayal of Mark Twain was an audience favorite. With his hair whitened and wild, a white suit and shoes, and a cane, he made a humorously imposing figure. Twain was often at odds with Poe, and the banter between the two sparked lots of laughs.

The relationship that ensued between Koeritz’s Shakespeare and the female authors also had the audience rolling in the aisles. After being stuck with the older and slightly stuffy Twain, Poe, and Doyle for the years before, the fresh young blood of Shakespeare was very much appreciated by the female characters. As the play progressed, the women all found excuses to get him alone, and he thrived off of their competition. His sweet nothings, all quoted from his plays, almost led to fisticuffs several times as the women vied for his affections.

Staging a show with as much action as this one had in such a small space looked like a challenge, but it was admirably met. Every inch of the stage was utilized, sometimes in surprising ways. The actors excelled at using their environment to the limit, and it was fun in the audience to be privy to the escapades and hijinks of this cast of deluded authors.

The next Concordia theatre productions are the plays of the One Act Play Festival, which will take place April 7-9. There will be five one act plays, directed by the students of the play production class.

IMPROVables will also be active in the coming months, with a performance at Olde Glory Theatre on March 1, the 24-Hour IMPROVathon Mar. 18-19 and a performance on campus April 30.

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