Chillingly Funny, ‘Murder Takes a Holiday’ at The Sherman Playhouse

A Live Theater Review: Welcome to the quaint and cozy Alpine Chalet, located high on a mountaintop in rural New Hampshire. Other than plenty of snowfall, and a ski lift that never seems to work properly, nothing ever really happens in this picture-perfect ski resort town, or… does it?

MurderFinal1In Tim Kelly’s classic murder-mystery-comedy play, “Murder Takes a Holiday,” not everything is what it appears to be when the first victim is murdered on a ski trail, putting the entire small town on edge. If that isn’t enough, another victim is suddenly found dead, and it’s too close for comfort.

With a body still warm, Diane and Harry Thompson arrive at the scene for anything but a nice and relaxing stay at the rustic Alpine Chalet. This brother and sister duo have absolutely no idea about the heinous crime that was just committed, or… do they?

Mrs. Bowman, a thrill-seeker who loves to climb mountains, is the lodge’s only other guest. She’s a regular who knows what’s going on and can’t wait to disclose everything she knows.

Pam, the maid and aspiring mystery-thriller writer, seems nice enough. Albeit, she’s obsessed with wanting to witness the perfect murder. And, what about Ray Oakman, another employee who looks innocent? Well… most of the time. Lulu, the mediocre cook, is a bit odd acting, and… how come she doesn’t speak?

What’s with the ski lodge owner, Leon Mitchell, and why does he look so sick?  Is Doc Willoughby, the village doctor, really a doctor, and is Emma Roberts really a nurse?

MurderFinal4With everyone under suspicion, including Ed Cadbury, the local sheriff, there’s certainly a chill in the air, and it’s not just the weather.

Add a villainous intruder in a ski mask to the mix, who only appears on cold and windy days when the lights flicker, this rollercoaster whodunit play would be terrifying without some perfectly-timed comedic relief.

In this Sherman Playhouse production, the “cast of suspects” collaboratively work well together to pull off a murder-mystery that feels so local, as if it’s taking place in a nearby ski resort.

Barbara Disraeli, who plays Diane Thompson, and Rick Haylon, who plays her brother, Harry, complement each other nicely onstage and make the perfect team.

Noel Desiato, “Mrs. Bowman,” is a delightful, gossipy socialite-adventurer who pulls off the character splendidly.

Jessica Gleason brings pure energy and enthusiasm to her role as Pam, who hopes to be the next Agatha Christie.

Jeffrey Alan Solomon, who plays Ed Cadbury, has a “cut to the chase” stage presence as the local sheriff who can’t wait to find and apprehend the murderer.

Bruce Tredwell, the ski lodge owner, carry’s off the image of a strong man with a boisterous personality quite well, giving much dimension to his character.

Michael Schaner, an employee at the lodge, flitters in and out of the scenes naturally and knows how to play the sneaky, quiet type that may have something to hide.

Dean Alexander, “Doc Willoughby,” and Paige Gray, “Nurse Emma Roberts,” appear to really have something going on that’s more than a professional relationship.

Also delivering fine performances are Judy Sullivan, as Lulu, Lynn NMurderFinal5issenbaum, as Adele Pruitt, and last, but not least; the mysterious intruder… “who could it be?”

Sit at the edge of your seat and listen closely, especially to the last few minutes in the final scene, to see if your sleuthing skills can crack the case.

Keli Solomon, an actress who’s making her directorial debut, adds to the production extra-special holiday touches that set the stage for a wintry mix of horror and humor. Snow, a realistic fireplace, and holiday décor add to the warm and inviting feel that’s anything but.

Cheerful holiday music, selected by associate producer Michael Schaner, plays on as the plot thickens. Tourism talk among “locals” makes light an otherwise grave situation. Funny one-liners are worthy of a good chuckle, too.

Choreographer Adam Battelstein, stage manager Phaedra Harris, lighting and set designer Al Chiappetta, costume designer Terry Hawley; and the entire production staff, did a wonderful job making the play come to life.

This Sherman Playhouse rendition of “Murder Takes a Holiday” is an entertaining community theater experience.

Tim Kelly, a renowned American playwright who published over 300 plays in his lifetime, published “Murder Takes a Holiday” in the early 1980s. He was also a well-known screen and television writer.

Kelly’s first stage play published was “Widow’s Walk.” During this time in the 1960s, three of his other plays also opened; “A Darker Flower” at New York’s Pocket Theatre, “The Trunk” and “All That Jazz” at Boston’s Image Theatre, and “Die Blum” in Germany.

“Murder Takes a Holiday” at The Sherman Playhouse runs December 1, 2, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23.

The evening show starts at 8:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and the matinee starts at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday. To buy tickets online, visit: ShermanPlayers.org or call: 860.354.3622 to make a reservation.

This live theater review by Alicia Sakal was originally written for The Sherman Sentinel, a bi-monthly publication that has served the local community for 70 years.

Photos: Tom Libonate, The Sherman Playhouse Photographer

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