Members of a private London club of women mystery writers put their crime-solving chops to the test when one of their prominent members is murdered at the club. The murderer must be one of the club members and suddenly no one can be trusted. They determine to solve the crime themselves and prove their mettle, acting out a mystery worthy of one of their novels. That’s the premise of the play “Murder by Membership Only” by Thomas Hischak, directed by Ruth Ann Pattee, appearing at the Valley Players Theater in Waitsfield from March 2-19, 2023.
Many of the all-female cast members will be familiar to Valley Players fans. Four of nine characters were double-cast, meaning you’ll catch a different actor for those characters, depending on the night you attend (each of the double-casted actors will perform in six out of the 12 performances). Kohl Comtess and Stefanie Seng play popular novelist Hester Tandy; Mikki Nucci and Marci Robinson play secretary Lydia Beaton; Marie Schmukal and Carrie Phillips play the mysterious Mrs. Plimpton; Cynthia Seckler and Danielle Dukette play the haughty Clarice Furgusson; Irene Halibozek plays the American author Eve Hawkins; Joanne Puente plays the club proprietor, Madame LeCoq; Charlotte Robinson plays the cook, Mrs. Balser; Harwood student Anna Brundage plays the reporter, May Cobbs; and Robbie Harold play the famed author Octavia Sturges. Puente doubles as stage manager, Halibozek as lighting designer and Nucci is also set build crew chief. On the evening this reporter attended the show, Seng, Nucci, Phillips and Dukette portrayed the shared roles.
The characters are, by nature, duplicitous, skeptical and some are not particularly likeable, making the mystery all the more fun. The actors plant seeds of suspicion amongst the audience while keeping up with British accents.
Theatergoers are encouraged to attempt to solve the mystery themselves and vote on “whodunnit” at intermission. Performances are at 7 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. The weekend of March 17-19 will be the show’s final weekend. Lovers of murder mysteries will delight in seeing the crimes unfold and playing detectives themselves.
Seng, Nucci, Phillips and Dukette will perform Thursday and Sunday while Comtess, Robinson, Schmukal and Seckler perform Friday and Saturday.
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