By Isa Paley of Wakefield High School
The Butler did it! No, wait it must’ve been her husband! Or was it the little girl?
In classic mystery theater, the audience is always left guessing, scouring the show for hidden clues to figure out who did what. Bringing the fun to an online landscape, Heritage High School emulated the liveliness and excitement of the mystery classics in their new and rousing hybrid production of “Whodunnit.”
An original piece by local playwright Aspen MacLeod, “Whodunnit” follows the guests and staff of the lavish but dwindling Clybourne Arms Hotel. Set in the 19th century, the hotel’s normalcy is upended by the arrival of an exceedingly rich couple, the Farthingales, whose wealth seems promising for the future of the hotel. But after Mrs. Farthingale’s necklace is stolen, a full-on investigation begins as anyone could be the culprit. Heritage’s production features a cast of 40, whose rehearsal process was done completely online, as well as one week to film the show on their school’s stage.
During the show, the entire cast was required to wear masks and be socially distant on stage. Despite this unique challenge, they managed to make the entire space feel full, thanks in no small part to the talented ensemble of 40. Every actor’s work was essential, whether it was stealing the scene or providing much-needed ambiance to such a large space.
However, within the amazing cast, there were a few standouts. As Ms. Farthingale, Emma Saville was snobbishly fun, making her character simultaneously hate-able and a true joy to watch. Cordelia Din also shined as Ms. Clybourne, the worn-out hotel owner dealing with such organized chaos. She had great timing and chemistry with all her scene partners, acting as a constant source of common sense compared to her over-the-top customers. And the group of hotel maids (Kayla English, Amelie Allen, Shannon Mihelic, Erin Sadler, Lily Kilduff, Kira Saunders, Jaclyn Pisani, Christa Knight, Samantha Balderrama) as a collective played off of each other really well, making their scenes feel very natural and exciting to watch.
The technical side of the show is equally as well done. The set, designed by Drew Crawford and Colin Jones is perfect for the show, extravagant and entrancing. It perfectly captures what the interior of a hotel should look like. The costumes (Emma Saville, Amelie Allen, Abby Edwards) are also wonderful, fulfilling the very tough task of recreating period wear. During the pandemic, a lot of the more technical aspects of theatre have been seriously cut down, so it was an amazing feeling to see them again and executed so magnificently.
There’s nothing like a good old game, whether it be Clue or binging an exciting mystery tv show. There’s a true joy in solving these fictional cases, and Heritage High School’s brilliant production of “Whodunnit” that’s perfect for anyone who finds excitement in the seemingly unsolved.
[This review of the March 26performance at Heritage High School is part of a series published in a partnership between Loudoun Now andThe Cappies, a writing and awards program that trains high school theater and journalism students to be expert writers, critical thinkers, and leaders.]