‘Death by Fatal Murder’ opens Sept. 10 at Mighty Richland Players

Bldowyn Morgan (center, Mary Jo Frederick) conducts a séance with Detective Inspector Pratt (Josh Ryan, left), and Miss Joan Maple (Sue Wichman). (Photo provided)

Online Staff Report

Mighty Richland Players’ (MRP) latest production, Death by Fatal Murder, by Peter Gordon, sees the less-than-triumphant return of the hapless “Defective” Inspector Pratt to solve yet more grisly goings-on at the now notorious Bagshot House.

Following MRP’s two previous installments over the past two falls — Murdered To Death and Secondary Cause of DeathDeath by Fatal Murder portrays the bumbling sleuth, again played by Josh Ryan, trying to get to the bottom of the mysterious disappearance of one of his own officers. He is helped, but more often hindered, in his inquiries by the eccentric inhabitants of the mysterious country manor house, as well as his trusty beat bobby, Constable Thomkins, played by Drew Chelberg.

Clueless in every sense, the detective wastes no time in trying to arrest witnesses, eat vital evidence and leap to improbable conclusions while losing the thickening plot at every turn. The officer’s disappearance begins to look increasingly like murder as the finger of suspicion waivers from suspect to ever more unlikely suspect.

Could the killer be Bagshot Manor’s new owner, Nancy Allwright (Emily Evans); amorous Italian lodger Enzo Garibaldi (Reynold Nolan); Welsh clairvoyant Blodwyn Morgan (Mary Jo Frederick); mystery sleuth extraordinaire Miss Joan Maple (Sue Wichman); socialite Ginny Farquhar (Keisha Chelberg); or back-from-the-dead fighter pilot Squadron Leader Roger “Stiffy” Allwright (John Buford)?

The Agatha Christie visits Fawlty Towers style of the production generates plenty of laughs, and includes some great lines.

It is under the direction of Kim Sigafus that Josh Ryan’s flawless performance as the incompetent Inspector Pratt really gives the play its comic energy and makes it work. To master a conventional script is an achievement in itself, but the fact that most of Pratt’s dialogue consists of elaborate puns and obscure malapropisms makes Ryan’s assured performance even more remarkable.

The whole cast works well together, and Drew Chelberg provides great comic support for Ryan as Pratt’s knowing subordinate PC Thomkins, who has to conceal his frustration at the fact that he is clearly more capable of solving the mystery than his moronic superior officer.

Death by Fatal Murder will play in Orangeville as a Friday-Saturday evening dessert theater at 7:30 p.m., Sept. 10, 16, 23 and 24. The show also will play as a matinee at 1 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 11.

Tickets are $20 and available through the Monroe Arts Center, (608) 325-5700. The show also will play at the Hanover Town Hall at 2 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 18, under the sponsorship of the Back Street Players. Tickets will be available through the Apple River State Bank in Hanover or at the door.

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