By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli
Alan Stanford celebrates PICT Classic Theatre’s new season by staging his own death (every night the rest of the week and in a Sunday matinee) in a loosely structured murder mystery, “Murder at the Craft House: Who Killed Alan Stanford?”
When PICT Classic Theatre’s Artistic and Executive Director swigs a potent glass of Jamison (is there any other kind?), he discovers, far too late, that the Irish whiskey has been poisoned. He has been murdered! But now the game is afoot!
Is it Aloysius (James FitzGerald), the arrogant butler? Fergus (Martin Giles), the cantankerous caretaker? Or is it squeaky Cecile (Paige Borak), the house maid? Can it be the host and mistress of the house, Christina Craft (Sarah Wojdylak), or her twisted sister, Imogen (Ashley McKinney)? Even Detective McBurney (Michael McBurney) is a suspect in the crime he’s attempting to solve.
Guests traipse about the grand home seeking clues and munching on some tasty nibbles (the cupcakes outnumbered the clues by ten to one). Ironically, you could nosh on salmon while trying to decipher a red herring.
At one point it was difficult to ascertain the guests from the actors as some slightly eccentric characters were really just PICT supporters.
But the actors are delightful, improvising their alibis. Gee! It was fun watching McBurney and Giles verbally spar with gusto (and alliteration).
McKinney is absolutely looney as the unhinged Imogen. Imogen carries a doll also named Imogen, who she treats as real. The doll can’t seem to keep her underpants up. While the flesh and blood Imogen can’t seem to keep up hers around the distinguished yet difficult butler, Aloysius. Is it a clue? It doesn’t really matter. It’s silly and hilarious.
Each actor remained in character throughout the performance. During the big reveal Giles started to crack, but it was reminiscent of “The Carol Burnett Show,” where Harvey Korman couldn’t keep it in, while Tim Conway rambled.
The actors relied on detailed histories created for them by Gayle Pazerski. Each character had an elaborate tale to weave.
Are there enough clues laid out for you to solve “Murder at the Craft House: Who Killed Alan Stanford?” Probably not. You couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a red herring (an intentional obfuscation). While Alan’s murder is eventually solved, the mystery of the poisoned pussy remained (someone offed a fictitious cat).
The true star of the evening was the illustrious setting. The Charles Craft House was built in 1900. The town of Crafton was named after the Charles Craft, son of the frontier attorney, James S. Craft. The junior Craft was the first burgess of the town that bears his family name. The stately home is elegantly appointed by the real hostess of the evening, Eileen Clancy.
“Murder at the Craft House: Who Killed Alan Stanford” is a delightful way for PICT Classic Theatre to introduce their new season.
“Murder at the Craft House: Who Killed Alan Stanford” runs all weekend at the Craft House, 8 Alice Street, Crafton, PA 15205. For more information, click here.