Flint Hill School
With a cast of colorful characters, Heritage High School's production of Whodunnit was entertaining, funny, and contained just the right amount of mystery. Despite complicated conditions including virtual rehearsals, socially distant blocking, and limited practice time in the theater, the cast and crew successfully engaged their virtual audience with their unique interpretation of playwright Aspen MacLeod's piece. The story, which takes place at the Clybourne Arms Hotel, centers on the stolen necklace of the wealthy Blanche Farthingale, causing staff and guests alike to become suspects in the case. Introducing the underrated genre of mystery/thrillers into theater simultaneously kept the plot compelling and interactive for viewers.
In a stellar group with over 40 student actors, every character had distinct qualities and personalities, along with props to help identify their character. One standout actress was Lili Williams, who portrayed energetic and expressive hotel guest Audrey Rochester. Williams exhibited a wide range of attitudes; she was flirtatious with other guests, but also wounded when it was announced she was previously engaged to Edward Farthingale (TJ D'Onofrio) before he married Blanche. She also had a great rapport with Tyler Cowher, who played Stanley L'Arson, the charming yet suspicious ladies-man of the hotel. Cowher's performance was complete with a dry sense of humor, Shakespeare quotes, and a captivating physical stage presence. Both of these actors made their characters come to life as the audience learned more about relationships between the characters, as well as their potential connections to the crime.
Notable aspects of crew involvement for the production of Whodunnit were the costumes and lighting/sound teams. The costume, hair, and makeup team, which consisted of Emma Saville, Amelie Allen, and Abby Edwards, put together unique ensembles for all characters, while also distinguishing groups with a signature color scheme or garment style. The maids, for instance, were believable as an ensemble of gossipy and tight-knit women, partially due to the fact that their simple, yet elegant black-and-white outfits matched, and their hair was tied back. Blanche Farthingale, on the other hand, was the picture of wealth and beauty in a ruffled teal gown. Regardless of a character's status or gender, the costumes were consistent in time period and style, creating a cohesive unit on stage. The costumers clearly put in effort, planning, and creativity when deciding how to make characters blend in, stand out, or represent themselves via clothing and accessory choice: attention to detail was a noteworthy element of behind-the-scenes work.
In the lighting and sound category, students Donny Brkic and Miriana Lewandowski took advantage of the hybrid platform of the production, utilizing both the classic stage lighting that would be seen in a pre-COVID-era show as well as transmitting audio smoothly and clearly to a virtual audience. Even with physical distance in place, the technical crews employed lighting and high-quality sound to make transitions successful.
Although Whodunnit ended on a cliff-hanger, there was no room for deliberation when it came to the dedication and energy the cast and crew provided. Due to scores of unique personas, flawless technical work in the audio and lighting departments, wonderful costumes, and an engaging, well-presented storyline, the accomplishments of the Heritage theater department were no mystery!
Westfield High School
"Papers, get your papers!" Better get them fast, too, because Heritage High School's captivating production of Whodunnit is worth reading about. Whodunnit took the audience on a chaotic and thrilling ride with its interactive, videogame-like production which revealed something big had happened at the Clybourne Arms Hotel and it was up to the audience to find out "whodunnit."
Whodunnit, written by Aspen MacLeod, followed the case of the wealthy Mrs. Farthingale's stolen necklace and the events leading up to and after it. Presumed to be set in around mid-1800's Britain, this production detailed the hunt to find the true culprit in a group where everyone seemed suspicious.
While this show was rehearsed entirely virtually, the actual filming and final version of this play was performed in-person under COVID-19 restrictions. The skills needed for acting in film versus live theatre differ greatly, yet none of the live performance skills were lost in the transition. The actors utilized excellent projection and articulation skills and all their words were understood clearly despite the physical barrier of a mask. The British accents they used were prominent, yet subtle in a way that made them sound realistic. Despite mandatory social distancing, the blocking was executed well and looked natural.
This production featured many noteworthy events and impressions from certain individuals. Josephine D'Arcy, who played Basil, radiated so much energy and humor, along with Mia Sirinsky's hilarious performance of Queenie Quackenbush. Kyla Goldsby, who played Lady Sybil, perfectly embodied the spirit of a mysterious and elegant lady in her acting choices. The wide range of emotions that came with Lili Williams's portrayal of Audrey Rochester, as shown through her conversations with the other characters, was astonishing. Emma Healey's thoughtfully made, yet subtle choices and mannerisms led to an in-depth characterization of The Mysterious Ms. M.
The supporting cast of Whodunnit brought realism and whimsicality to the production. The maids and kitchen staff provided comedy and connections to the setting, while the individuals of the secret society fully embodied the aura of omnipotent narrators and enhanced the viewer's experience. Each of these performers let the quirks of their specific character shine through, which made the play much more engrossing.
The props (arranged by Steven Ramsey and Reed Small) combined with the gorgeous costumes, hair, and makeup (designed by Emma Saville and worked upon by Amelie Allen and Abby Edwards), helped establish the time period of the piece and provided identifiers for the characters. Drew Crawford and Colin Jones created an exquisite set design and the lighting, designed by Donny Brkic, enhanced and added dramatic effect to the set. Miriana Lewandowski's sound design was clear and well planned out, considering masks provided a huge obstacle to sound. The mixture of full stage versus close-up shots, as filmed by Christian Bittenbender and Logan Goldsby, was planned out in a way that showcased the blocking and emphasized important interactions between characters well.
Theft is a "dreadful business, isn't it?" And it is, yet it made for such an alluring adventure. With a 40-person cast, 20 people on tech, and only five days in-person to complete this show (two days for actors, two days for tech, and three days to film) from all-virtual rehearsals, the cast and crew of Whodunnit at Heritage High School created a cohesive and gripping production that transcended COVID-19 restrictions. This cleverly executed production surely entertained mystery and non-mystery fans alike.