DOVER — It’s time for theater-goers to break out the detective kits as Dover High presents the murder mystery “A Family Reunion to Die For” as the annual fall production.
The Nov. 7 and 8 play, set at Wilcox’s Western Bed and Breakfast in the Virgin Islands, takes place in a single day following newlyweds Freddie and Christine Franklin to a reunion with Christine’s extended family.
The beginning of the reunion goes well until family members and guests at the bed and breakfast begin getting picked off one by one by a mystery killer while everyone is stuck in the hotel as a storm rages outside.
Freddie, an inexperienced wannabe detective, leads the cast and audience through an investigation to find the killer.
Although the tale is a murder mystery, it leans toward the comedic.
“It’s really funny and kind of corny, it reminds me of an old black and white comedy,” said Kristy Shallenberger who portrays Beatrice Googleheimer.
The comedic nature of the play can make it a little more difficult for the actors to stay serious than a drama.
“Sometimes you have to try really hard to stay in character because there are times you just want to start laughing,” Amber Grier, who plays the role of Connie Carlson, said.
The production features nearly 20 cast members and despite wild accusations flying around on stage, all the actors said the relationship among the large cast has been going on great off stage.
“This isn’t your typical drama club,” junior Sheridan Bryan said. She plays Christine Franklin. “Everyone here is really good at what they do and they all have a good sense of humor so even though we’ve had a lot to do with a lot of busy actors, it’s still been a lot of fun.”
“One of the great things about this play is that there is a big cast and such a wide range of characters,” Janna Whitenight, Dover High drama director, said. “I try to incorporate everyone who wants to be involved whether it is be on stage or behind the scenes so productions with a large cast give everyone a good opportunity.”
Just like the wide array of characters in the play, the actors and production team include an interesting variety of students. All rehearsals are after school, not in a drama class so the students range from freshmen to seniors and all have different areas of academic focus.
A particularly unique aspect of “A Family Reunion to Die For” is the audience participation. Several characters aside from Freddie lead the audience participation and their parts require a lot of improvisation.
“It does make me a little anxious but I think even the best actors get a little nervous, you just need to go out there and try to be confident,” Sheridan said.
Whether the students interact with the audience or not in this play, nearly all like the idea of performing in front of a large audience.
“One of the best parts is your friends and family come and they get to see a different side of you and what you’re capable of,” said Jake Schier, who is taking on the role of Freddie.
Amber also likes performing for the audience but for different reasons.
“It’s special to make a connection with the audience and for them to feel the way your character feels,” she said.
But like most of the other students, she also enjoys the opportunity acting gives to assume a different persona.
“It gives you the chance to convince not only yourself but also the audience that you’re someone else,” she said.
“It’s really about the idea of escaping reality and getting to be someone else for a change,” Lamont Pierce, playing the hotel critic Joel March, said.
Showtimes are 7 p.m. Nov. 7 and 2 p.m. Nov. 8 at the Dover High School Auditorium. Tickets are $10; $5 for students. Ticket prices include refreshments.