Adanna Carter, Contributing Writer
The lights dim, the chatter fades, and the mystery begins as Gene Culpepper, director of the play “Murders in the Heir,” initiates the play. Mr. Culpepper, a character with upbeat passion and a voice for correction, sets the scene for the murder mystery by detailing the important key factors to keep in mind as the cast characters walk on.
The play takes place during the present time in the Starkweather Mansion on a stormy November night. There are fifteen members of the cast and only nine prospective murderers. Mr. Starkweather, the grandfather and tyrannical billionaire, writes a will promising his relatives a surplus of money and his servants an abundance of cash. The greedy relatives are satisfied with this news, until they discover they are getting less than a tenth of the billions their grandfather possesses. In addition to this, the billionaire decides to clone himself and create a new will leading to the distribution of an even more inadequate supply of money.
This causes a lot of bewilderment, incredulity and anger amongst the family and staff. Jordan Starkweather, the billionaire’s great-nephew, expresses his discontent for this idiocy proposing multiple plans to kill Mr. Stockweather and wishing death on the old man. An unfortunate blackout befalls the mansion and when the lights are rejuvenated a dead tyrannical billionaire is revealed. Someone had wrapped the blood pressure cord around Mr. Stockweather’s neck and strangled him to death. Who could it be? Who would want to kill the old man? Just about everyone, the old man was wasting his billions on something as bizarre as being cloned.
The lights are turned on and that’s when the cast engages with the audience, patrolling the room for opinions on who the murderer could be. The prospective murderers included Bensonhurst, the butler who constantly reprimands one of the staff members Rufus; Minerva Walker, the temperamental cook; Mrs. Trent, the dour housekeeper who was furious with Mr. Stockweather for cloning himself, as it does go against nature; Nancy Pollard, the shy maid who fumbles to be as obedient as possible; Rufus Jones, the surly handyman who’s a bit daft and defiant of authority; Fiona Starkweather, the befuddled niece of Mr. Stockweather; Jordan Stockweather, Fiona’s materialistic and flirtatious son; Paula Thompson, Mr. Stockweather’s great-niece; and Miss Withers, a stern nurse.
In the next scene different members of the family and staff start acting extra suspicious. Each of them possess a weapon or some pernicious poison that could potentially hurt Mr. Stockweather. Minerva had a large knife she held on to causally; Rufus clung on to a large ax unceremoniously; Fiona possessed a bottle of pills that could kill someone; Bensonhurst held a wrench. Paula grasped a rifle irregularly; and Withers carried around a hypodermic needle. That’s when different conversations transpire concerning the death of Mr. Stockweather and the approach to gaining more inheritance.
Next, the investigation begins and the family and staff are interviewed about what happened on the day of the murder. The members start to blame each other eluding blame from themselves and fabricating alibis to protect themselves.
That’s when the lights are turned on once again and the votes are gathered from the audience on who could be the murderer.
Additionally there is a questionnaire time, to ask the cast questions like: Jordan, what’s your endgame, Starkweather has passed what do you get from that? Minerva, what’s the purpose of the knife? How do we know that the blood machine killed Mr. Stockweather? Nancy, why are you so nervous? Butler, is there any possibility that you could have intercepted the pills? Wither, didn’t you get hit on the head when the lights went out? Lois, what’s your relationship with Kathy? Finally, Trent, what specifically do you have against cloning?
All of these questions and more led to the official tallies collected. The murderer was revealed as Miss Withers.
When asked what were the hints dropped that could reveal the murderer Carlos Perez, the co-director and a senior said, “Throughout the whole entire show there were lots of different points where people were showing different weapons on who could be the murderer and everything. Especially with the different weapons like the gun, wrench, ax, and the pill bottle, so there was lots of different instruct. But what’s great about this show is that anyone could be the murderer it all depends on the audience, so whatever the audience picks is honestly whoever the murderer is. So the person just found out they were going to be the murderer and they played out that scene entirely by themselves.”
Seeing as the audience were the ones to reveal the murder, the cast rehearsed different endings so the cast could be prepared.
“We rehearsed the scene multiple times with different murderers. Every night we had about two to three different murder scenes and they had to rehearse multiple times so that they could all learn the lines immediately. So everyone does know the lines, but no one knows until the night of the show.”
“The way the plays set up we have multiple endings, so I had to rehearse that scene regardless if I had to be the murderer, and it’s like you kind of have to get into the crazy mindset. I was a little nervous,” Collen Kelly, who played Miss Withers said.
While it was unknown who the murder was going to be Kelly had an inclination that it would be her.
“If I played my character the right way I figured it was going to be me.”
The audience had positive reactions to the play with the play and Shaquille Cole-Cephus, a junior, was one of them.
“The play was pretty well done, very chaotically captivating. It was a toss up on who the murderer might be, I was stuck with Trent and Miss Withers, but I slightly thought it was probably Withers because of her lacerations in the head.”
The play was a surprise result for everyone and an intriguing performance to watch filled with deceit, greed, mischief, and humor.