A stay at the Murder Inn
Although they had originally planned to adapt an Agatha Christie play and were not able to get the rights, the team behind the Little Theatre’s newest production, “Murder Inn,” found an alternate story, which fits perfect with the coming Halloween season.
The play will be helmed by first-time director Kristi Westergaard and is set in an old inn in New England that may or may not be haunted. The characters stumble into the Barnsley Inn during a storm while on a tour of the region’s spookier venues, little do they know that the inn is supposedly haunted by a knife-throwing poltergeist.
Theresa Scheidt, who plays picky and prickly Agnes Tate, described the play as “a murder mystery with a comedic twist.” Her character is one of many, all of whom seem to have their own quirks about them. “Agnes is very antagonistic, she finds everybody’s weak spot and just digs at them. She’s that mean girl that everyone loves to hate,” Scheidt said of her character.
Despite Tate’s aggressive and cutting persona, Scheidt revels in the chance to play her. “I definitely enjoy playing Agnes, it gives me the opportunity to go up and just be a completely horrible person.”
The play is a whodunnit, and the audience is able to piece everything together as the performance nears its conclusion. “It’s fun, it’s a good mix of funny and suspenseful and it has a satisfying ending,” director Westergaard said.
On the perfect timing with the Halloween season, Westergaard exclaimed that, “it’s a perfect time to get out of the cold and watch a good show.” Although the last performance is a few days before the holiday officially gets underway, she joked that if any audience members dress up in costumes that she will personally shake their hand.
Westergaard was implored by the late Sharon Stark to direct her first play at the Little Theatre, after working in various roles during past productions. Of her actors she had nothing but good things to say. “It’s a nice mix of veterans, and younger talent, and even some new faces. We have a good team and that makes everything work well,” she said.
Despite getting harangued with questions on who the killer might be, or whether or not the ghost is indeed real, Westergaard revealed little, however she did want the audience to know they “have the opportunity to figure out the killer before the end.”
Nick Beck, who plays the inn keeper’s brother Jake Talbot, may or may not be behind all the recent murders at the inn as those weary travelers slowly begin dropping one by one. “My character is more of an observer,” he said.
“The innkeepers, they almost benefit from it. It adds to the mystique of the place,” Beck explained of the slew of deaths which might be the result of a certain ghost. The ghost in question is dubbed Marco, and early on characters “communicate” with him via a Ouija board in one of the many comedy scenes.
Much of the comedy is centered around the characters of Grace Sharp and Doris Brooks, played by Gail Zollner and Linda Karnauskas respectively. Zollner explains that the two are traveling companions on the tour who seem prone to bicker while the bodies are flying and the storm builds to a crescendo.
“They get a couple of zingers in on each other,” Zollner said. “While it is a mystery, there is also great comedic lines and fun comedy moments,” she added. Despite the spooky title, and the spat of murders, the cast and crew describe it as generally family friendly considering the amount of levity which is sprinkled throughout.
The play itself promises to be quite intriguing for audiences, especially considering many may not be as familiar with it as other plays, and thus not privy to the twists and turns along the way. “Enjoy and have fun,” were Zollner’s words for the audience. “Watch along and pay attention to the clues and the foreshadowing,” she added.
“It really feels like we’re inviting the spirit of Halloween,” cast member Beck said of the production. “Nobody really knows who murdered who or what’s really going on,” he said while trying not to reveal any potential spoilers.
“Murder Inn” was written by Howard Voland and Keith McGregor. The Little Theatre production will star Nick Beck as Jake Talbot, Sarah Friesen as his sister and fellow innkeeper Martha Talbot, Theresa Scheidt as Agnes Tate, Courtney Kryzer as her niece Carolyn Pickett, Alexis Ayers as Ellen Halsey, Raquel Hellman as Muriel Lampmann, Lisa Cochran as Patricia Simpson, Michael Reider as Todd Currier, Mark Place as Professor Lawrence Currier, Gail Zollner as Grace Sharp, Linda Karnauskas as Doris Brooks, and Mark Zollner as Donald Schultz.
Showings are scheduled for Oct. 19, 20, 26, and 27 at 7:30 p.m., with matinees on Oct. 21 and 28 at 2 p.m. For those looking for a spooky and funny prelude to Halloween, they should look no further than “Murder Inn.” The play is directed by Kristi Westergaard with technical direction by Jenny Hager.