The RC Players rang in their spring season with a near-lethal dose of student-written comedy. “A Most Conspicuous Murder,” written and directed by LSA senior Lauren Burke, toes the line between fatality and farce, leaving audiences in fits of raucous laughter. Staged in East Quad’s Keene Theater, the show took on an immersive flair as the actors ran amok through the aisles trying to pin down the murderer.
The script is a delightful spoof of a mystery, part “Downton Abbey” and part “Clue.” Indeed, perhaps one of its greatest strengths lies in its adamant resolution not to take itself too seriously. Burke simultaneously utilizes and subverts every character and plot trope in the book; most notably the very crux of a murder mystery… mystery. For “A Most Conspicuous Murder” is no misnomer — the audience witnesses the protagonist, Albert Ainsworth, accidentally stab his lover Charles with a letter opener in the opening scene.
The ensuing mayhem is characteristic of a classic detective novel, with one notable exception. The audience is acutely aware that Albert is the murderer, which only adds to the hilarity of the chaos that ensues. Albert accidentally kills his lover Charles after Charles tries to blackmail him into handing over his newly earned inheritance. In a desperate attempt to cover up his misdeeds, Albert panics and covers the body in a sheet. He is promptly caught by his maid and best friend Winnifred, who agrees to help him cover up the murder.
Enter Albert’s cantankerous grandmother Willamina, his cousins Elizabeth and Edmund and family friend Dr. Miller. After discovering a dead body in the parlor, the gang is sent into a frenzy trying to solve the case without being implicated themselves. Albert, played by LSA junior Will McClelland, must maintain his composure despite the advances of his gold-digging cousin Elizabeth, the unceasing scorn of his old-fashioned grandmother and the more-than-suspicious antics of his butler Jenkins.
At the brink of Albert’s mental breakdown enters acclaimed detective Achilles Armstrong, ready to get to the bottom of the case. As indefatigable as he is oblivious, Achilles tows Dr. Miller along in a wild goose chase, flamboyantly flapping his cloaked arms as he goes. Achilles is played by LSA junior Adrian Beyer, who will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the goofiest detectives of all time. The goof factor is not confined to Beyer alone, but rather permeates throughout the entire cast. McClelland’s guilt-ridden fits leave the audience in stitches, as he bumbles his way through the crime scene. Edmund, played by Music, Theatre & Dance freshman Samuel Hopkins, is the play’s most loveable himbo, bringing a sense of wholesome (if somewhat clueless) energy to every scene.
The set was spartan but efficient, and the stagehands switched from scene to scene with remarkable speed. Due to technical difficulties, the overhead lights would not turn off during scene transitions, leaving the crew semi-lit the entire time. What might have been perceived as an obstacle culminated in a heartwarming interaction between the crew and the audience; the stagehands received roaring applause with each transition. The use of the Keene space was engaging and immersive; at one point, Achilles chases Jenkins — played by the murderously enigmatic College of Engineering senior Artemis Pae — up, down and around the aisles of the Keene.
The combined efforts of the cast and crew culminated in a night of near-lethal laughter on all sides. Burke’s work pokes at your ribs and tickles your brain through its delightful pastiche of historical fact and fiction. It evades convention while simultaneously parodying some of the mystery genre’s most beloved tropes.
Daily Arts Writer Darby Williams can be reached at email@example.com.