On Saturday, Oct. 22, the Manhattan College Players performed their first show of the 2017-2018 season to a crowded Smith Auditorium. The show, as part of their annual murder mystery performance, was titled “The Crimson House Murder”.
The planning for the murder mystery began early in the summer, as student directors Matthew Peters (junior secondary education major) and Samuel Corby (senior mechanical engineering major) began looking for the best option. As the semester started, so did the audition process. Once the cast was formed, rehearsals began. It was then that the two directors added on a third student director, Paul Fucao (sophomore marketing major).
“Generally it’s been two [student directors] but we brought on Paul since Sam is graduating. In order to direct a show you must have worked with someone who has been a director before. We figured Paul would be a good assistant director because of his assets with technology. He makes the posters, the Playbills, works with sound,” said Peters. Fucao also played the role of Leon Russell in the show.
Through the collaboration of the directors, it’s easier to balance the duties of student directing. Where one might be better at blocking, another might be better at character development and another is better at set design.
All in all, the role as a student director is one they take seriously. It’s a job that comes with a lot of responsibility both through rehearsals but also reserving spots to run through scenes, especially since Smith is often used for other events such as lectures or the annual American Shakespeare Company performances. It’s also important to be able to coordinating rehearsals around night classes so no one is skipping classes and focusing on their school work.
“It’s kind of hectic but it’s a kind constant thinking between what I’m doing for my major and homework,” said Samuel Corby.
“If my teachers are reading this, then I obviously put classes first all the time. If my teachers don’t read this, then I put [the play] first all of the time, every day at least for the last two weeks,” joked Matthew Peters.
The murder mystery has been a tradition in the Players catalog for a few years now.
“Carlos [Pena] started it when I was a freshman, four years ago. It was something he wanted to do and after it, it was such a big hit and it became the tradition,” said Corby.
Compared to other productions, such as the spring musical “Legally Blonde” or this year’s mainstage play “Rumors”, or even the fall cabaret, the murder mystery is a show of its own, typically comedic and lighthearted.
“When you look at the mainstage play, it’s very serious in terms of workload and running lines […The murder mystery] is always our first show of the semester and I think it’s fun to put together,” said Peters.
After all of their work in rehearsals, it was time to put on their show.
Peters began to warm up the crowd and get them laughing, making jokes at the expense of the actor’s parents and his own. He even said President Donald J. Trump was ending the murder mystery, only to reassure the audience that it was only a joke.
Soon enough, “The Crimson House Murder” was underway. The lights began to flicker and the audience was transported to Ms. Fitzwilliam’s (Samantha Cunningham) boarding house, the Crimson House.
A slew of characters are introduced, each with their own hilarious qualities and personalities. There’s Jeeves (Lewis Acevedo), the butler, who is very forgetful and often seen crossing the stage attempting to find his way around the large home. There’s Fay Strange (Lisa Chizmadia), an actress, Penny Russell (Carolina Shea), a wife waiting for her husband to come visit, Anguish Crispie (Michelle Lapray), an author, and Mark Palegrave (Steven Goolsby), a man intrigued by the orchards in the house.
Enter Hercules Porridge (Joe Weitekamp), a detective’s son, who has taken on a case while his father is on vacation. Everything is going fine until an actual murder mystery begins: Leon Russell (Fucao), Penny’s husband, is found dead in the parlor. An actual detective, Bobby (Jamie Iacono), along with his bumbling partner, Officer Mulligan (Joel Sanson), arrive to solve the mystery.
With a crazy neighbor, Colonel Chutney (Peter Martino), entering the house as often as the unsuspecting Delivery Girl (Alyssa DeRosa), it’s uncertain if this crime scene will even be kept in tact. Especially when another dead body, Bridget Moriarty (Ellen Farrelly), ends up in the parlor.
Feet in trash cans, a nurse with a convincing accent (Nurse Payne played by Bailey Shaw) and two eager journalism students (Jenna Williams and Camryn Kidney) also come into the house and cause chaos.
It seems at one point that the case is clear, but it continues to delve into madness, as the lights dim and the play continues on.
The end comes as a shocker, but still provides many laughs, as is custom with the Players murder mystery.
“It was entertaining. I went to the last murder mystery last fall and Legally Blonde and Little Women. It’s good to see that even though they have a smaller cast […] they make use of what they have which is nice,” said Melissa Relevo, a junior student who attended the show.
The show was well attended and entertaining as Players shows usually are.
“The cast bounced off of each other pretty well. [Tonight] was definitely our best run,” said Lisa Chizmadia, a freshman engineering major who played Fay Strange.
The Players’ next show, “Rumors” is on Nov. 9-12.