What seems like an ordinary paint-by-numbers murder mystery becomes much more with each new revelation, in a new play opening Thursday at Davenport’s Mockingbird on Main.
The numbers include a doctor, a Hollywood starlet, a manor’s caretaker, detective and two dead bodies. Suspicions run wild as Detective Walters hurries to solve the case before another drops dead, according to a synopsis of “Murder a Mistwell Manor.” This fast-paced original work reveals a twist or three before racing to a conclusion the audience never sees coming, says a theater release.
Written and directed by Mockingbird co-owner Tristan Tapscott, “Murder at Mistwell Manor” features Eric Teeter as Milton Bair, the caretaker; Savannah Bay Strandin as Helen Havoc, the Hollywood starlet; Doug Kutzli as Roy Walters, the detective; and Jeremy Littlejohn as Jonathan Brooks, the doctor.
The Mockingbird — now known for bringing new works to the area, since its debut last summer — is venturing into new territory with the murder mystery.
“I’ve never written something for this genre before and thought it might be a fun experiment. Are we reinventing what theatre can do? No. Of course not,” Tapscott said in the release. “We are offering a natural escape from the chaos we are all living through.”
Co-producer and actress Savannah Bay Strandin added, “We are trying to program something accessible and something that everyone can enjoy; You can’t go wrong with a noir murder mystery.”
“Working on a new project that no one has ever seen before is always a ‘blessing and/or curse’ proposition,” actor Doug Kutzli noted. “On one hand, you have incredible freedom to create a character that is genuinely yours alone with nothing for anyone to compare it to. There is no predisposed perceptions.”
“On the other hand, with that freedom comes the challenge of not having any existing frame of reference; you can’t benefit from what other actors may have done with the character,” he said.
“It’s been an extremely collaborative effort,” Tapscott said. “I always start by saying, ‘the best idea in the room doesn’t have to be mine; it just needs to be the best idea in the room,’ and that is what makes this process – and The Mockingbird itself – so rad.”
Kutzli agrees, “Overall, it is generally a good experience, especially when you get to have input on the final version of the script. That was certainly the the way ‘The Murder at Mistwell Manor’ came together.”
“We know that no one has heard of this show and we know many haven’t heard of us, but we hope they can give us a shot,” Strandin added. “We are proud of what we are contributing to the landscape and hope we can continue to do it.”
“Murder at Mistwell Manor” will play Downtown Davenport’s Mockingbird on Main (320 N. Main St.) April 8, 9, 15 and 16 at 8 p.m. There will be a “Pay What You Can” preview on Thursday, April 7 at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7:30 for all performances.
All tickets are $15. Students with a valid student ID can pay what they can at any performance. For more information and tickets, click HERE.