Cute, comical, and not a little corny, these are the words that spring to mind when describing the murder mystery extravaganza that occurred at the Palace Theater on Saturday, September 29.
Just Desserts by Craig Sodaro is a lively mystery play revolving around the untimely death of Judge Reginald P. Cogsworth who perished while judging an annual charity bakeoff. The play is interactive and the audience must deduce which of the three talented ladies who entered the contest poisoned the Judge, and what was their motive. Was it the ditzy and garishly dressed Lucy “Scooter” Bright, the proud and haughty Margaret Mason, or the plumb, cat-loving librarian Edna Mae Carter?
Putting on an interactive play is by no means easy and the Sherburne Music Theater Society did a tolerable job. Not one of the five actors is a professorial performer; they are locals hailing from the greater Hamilton/Sherburne/Earlville area who share a love for theater. Their passion for the pastime came out strongly in their performance.
The play was directed by Earlville resident, Rick Thormahlen. His wife, Susan Thormahlen, said that the production was the company’s second.
“The show is really a community event,” Thormahlen said. “My husband is a retired high school teacher, and some of the actors are past students of his.”
Lisette Marlowe who played Lucy “Scooter” Bright, had perhaps the best performance. Dressed to a tee in high heels, fishnet leggings, brilliant red lipstick and a platinum blonde wig, Marlowe had all of the right basics in place to be your typical ‘bad girl,’ but it was her acting skill that really made her shine. From the toss of her hair to the purse of her lips to the way she jutted out her hip when she stood, there was nothing to make the viewer the least suspicious that she was not, in fact, Scooter Bright.
The other actors performed with varying degrees of excellence, and the overall result was a lively, spitfire comedy that had everyone grinning broadly, if not actually falling out of their seats.
During intermission the audience had a chance to scour the room in search of clues that might assist them in solving the crime. There was a rich body of clues to be had: love letters and blackmail notes, old grudges and books on poisonous plants. Senior citizens, respected community members and young children all puzzled over the pros and cons of each as the possible murderers. This determined and energetic quest could not continue however and was interrupted so that everyone could partake of the delicious and dreamy desserts that had been baked especially for the evening. The proceeds from the sale of the goodies went to the Sherburne Music Theater Society to pay for the rights to the play, tickets, and publicity.
The highlight of the evening was when Miss Peabody, the head of the baking contest, read a note left by Judge Cogsworth to be shared in the event of his unlikely death.
The missive said simply, “If I die, look under chair.”
After a moment’s pause, during which the audience puzzled over what such a poorly constructed sentence could mean, the entire room upturned their chairs in search of some clue to the identity of the murderer. Such clamor and laugher was wonderful to behold and proved that the audience was fully caught up in the drama.
Patricia von Mechow, the program coordinator said that she had contacted the Sherburne theater company last year to tempt them into performing during the Great Chocolate Wreck Festival. Von Mechow explained that Just Desserts will not be an isolated event, but is actually the first event in the Palace’s new series of live entertainment, ONStage!.
“I think that this [live theater] is the one thing we are really missing,” von Mechow said. “Our goal in the next few years is to bring in live entertainment and stay affordable. I think the community is very eager and supportive.”
Certainly the attendance on Saturday seemed to have supported her claim. More than 180 people turned out to enjoy the show, mostly local residents, but quite a smattering of Colgate students as well. All of the tables were full, and no one seemed to have gone home disappointed.