If you don’t die laughing at “Death By Chocolate,” you will at least have a jolly time attending this latest offering from the Crighton Players, written by Paul Freed and directed by Bill Torgan. We have here a merry murder mystery that has more twists than you might expect. And you won’t have to wait long for the first of several murders. It happens before the lights come up. And without giving away too much, watch for the clever way director Torgan works himself briefly into the plot just long enough to advertise the Crighton Players coming season and caution the audience about turning off cell phones.
The mysterious and amusing events that follow are played out on a towering set (designer, Mr. Torgan, builder, Wes Bush) that could be an attractive den in an elegant golf course home, but is, in fact, the office of the upscale Meadowbrook Health Resort. In the wake of some previous foul play, John Stone (Dale Trimble) has been chosen as the new manager of the spa. Trimble has great fun with this role, which is rife with double entendres and malapropisms. For example, he can never get straight the name of the ditzy spa secretary, Dyslexia, humorously played by Marilyn Moore. One minute he calls her Exlaxia and the next minute he calls her Distemper.
Next we meet the conniving owner of the spa, Lady Riverdale, played with elegance by the tall, slender, and lovely Tausheli McClure. Lady Riverdale, also known for her gourmet chocolates, wants nothing to interfere with the scheduled Grand Re-Opening of the spa, not even murder! Then there is Alfred Mellox, longtime aide of the former manager of the spa, drolly played with butler-like reserve by Chris Elliff. Enter Margaret Daniels, coolly portrayed by Kara Kelly. Daniels is introduced as a reporter of the tabloid, Elite Magazine. Stone disdains her as “exposer of the rich and manipulator of the poor.” As Daniels herself says, “What information I can’t buy, I’ll make up!” The blustering gym manager, Ralph (Mike Ragan), has some angles of his own, including a plan to write an exercise book. Lady Riverdale suggests he call it, “How to Become a Neanderthal in 10 Days.”
Meanwhile, Jeffrey Ott hilariously plays the effete and dainty aerobics instructor, Dick Simmering. He brings prancing to the level of an art form. And if you like cooking shows, you’ll love Edith Chiles, the resort cook. But don’t eat everything she eats! And speaking of eating, we can’t leave out “Sweet Pea” Meadowbrook, comically portrayed in this rare on-stage appearance by the Crighton’s brilliant costume designer, Lynn Peverill. Miss Peverill may have reserved one of the best costumes for herself as she appears in a getup that makes her look like a pregnant pastel lampshade with tassels. Sweet Pea, you see, never stops eating, and with her mouth ever-full, can only be understood by the experienced Alfred. For still more fun we have the valium-popping infirmary nurse, Anne (Leesa Dodd), and the would-be mystery playwright, Ed Parlor (Baron Daniel Jackson), who is fond of saying, as things move along, “This is exactly as I would have written it.” Ed, by the way, is working on a play titled—you guessed it—, “Death By Chocolate.”
Death by Chocolate plays at the Crighton Theatre, 234 N. Main St., in Conroe, Texas. Performances are Oct. 27-28 & Nov.3- 4 at 8 p.m. with a matinee performance at 2 p.m. on Sunday Oct. 29th. Tickets are $17 for adults and $10 for youngsters 18 and under. For further information call 936-441-7469 or visit the website: www.crightonplayers.org.
(The Courier 10.25.06)