The Little Theatre of Alexandria (LTA) is staging the farce, "A Party to Murder" now through Nov. 12.
The drama is about six people who have come to play a murder-mystery game hosted by writer Charles Prince at a rustic island cottage in Michigan during Halloween. As the characters embark on a weekend of fun, ghosts from the past begin to haunt the proceedings, and it becomes clear that they are both playing for laughs and their lives. Audiences are treated to rising tensions, secret passageways, incriminating letters, unexpected corpses, and a 25-year-old unsolved mystery.
"This play pays homage to a icon of the who-done-its — Agatha Christie. It is an excellent script full of comedy and mystery," said Director Jim Howard. "The challenge was to build a set that depicted an eerie place and that has been done with panache."
He said he's acted, produced, and directed many shows over the last 40 years, but this was his first who-done-it. He was supposed to co-direct this production with his friend of 25 years, Roland Gomez, but he died two weeks before auditions. His first task was to work with the team they put together to work on this show. As it turned out, he said it has been a pleasure to work as the director with these many talented designers and stage crew.
James McDaniel plays the role of Elwood, a warm-hearted, fun-loving, unmarried older man with a dark secret. "On the outside, he appears to look for the fun in all situations and is a terrible teaser. Although his girlfriend rebuffs him, he tries to be jovial and sociable. On the inside, however, he seeks justice, not revenge, for being deeply hurt," he said.
He said some of the challenges in the play were "finding opposites in the scenes — like expressing affection and anger at the same time," he said.
He hopes audiences take away love and empathy for his character, Elwood; "and an appreciation for the soundtrack of the television series, 'Poirot.'"
Danielle Comer plays the role of McKenzie, a lively, and passionate young model who loves fashion, extravagance, and booze. "She is often the butt of many a joke or off-handed insult, but she never let's it get to her and continues to speak her mind boldly and decisively in every situation. She is also a fan of using sarcasm and wit to lighten up any potentially tense situation, like say, a murder?" she said.
Her biggest challenge was definitely the script, she said. "There are many twists, turns, and surprises and finding the right energy and dramatic build up for each, while also making sure each was different and unique to the story, was definitely a challenge," she said.
Eva Coll plays the role of Henri, a really fun character for her to play, she said. "What I like most about her is that she is not at all how people perceive her to be. Although she is shy and constantly aims to please those around her, she does have an inner strength and lets this show at certain times throughout the show," she said.
She added that there were so many layers to the characters in this show. "It has been a real challenge trying to touch on and capture all of them throughout the performance," she said.
In the end, she hopes the audiences are entertained and that the actors continue to keep them on their toes. "There are sure to be a few surprises coming their way and I hope to leave them with some conflicted feelings about the story, perhaps reevaluating and looking at the story through each character's perspective," she said.
Damian J. Legacy plays the role of Willy, a boisterous former football player whose life changed after a car accident left him wheelchair-bound. "Despite his hot temper flaring up every now and then, he is mostly concerned with telling off-color jokes and using situational humor to make sure the others do not take themselves, nor their situation so gravely," he said.
He said the challenge was getting accustomed to the wheelchair. "Additionally, following the many twists and turns presented by the playwright also created the challenge of representing Willy's authentic motivations and emotions as he instigates and responds to various situations that arise," he said.
Laura Peterson plays the role of Valerie Addison. "She and her sister, Henri, have come to the island for a weekend murder mystery game hosted by one of their favorite authors, Charles Prince," she said. "She's someone who's used to being in control of things around her. But this weekend away quickly unravels beyond her control … with some surprising results," she said.
She added: "This is a show with a number of surprising plot twists, which made it a bit more challenging to learn in the first place. But hopefully the audience will appreciate some unexpected turns as the story unfolds."
Show times are Wednesday through Sunday at 8 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. Tickets are $19 and $22. The venue is located at 600 Wolfe St., Alexandria. Call 703-683-0496 or visit www.thelittletheatre.com.