The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

August 24, 2012

Impressive cast in fun ‘Mystery of Edwin Drood’


Star Beacon


 They’re off to the races at Rabbit Run Theater on Chapel Road with the final offering of the summer season that happens to be a hilarious comedy, partially penned as a mystery by Charles Dickens.
The ‘partially’ comes from the playwright’s death halfway through the writing of the work. Add some music and choreography, a creative touch of letting the audience decide the ending of the play (much like Ayn Rand did in “The Night of January 16th”) and who the murderer is, a bit of Victor Victoria, some vaudeville and slapstick and you have a show that Dickens would probably enjoy if he were around to purchase a ticket.
The British accent plays havoc with American ears, and in some cases the words of the songs are difficult to understand.  Not to worry; after each song the chairman/mayor in the real personage of George Roth alerts viewers as to what is happening: nice touch.
 And what a nice, professional, well-seasoned touch Mr. Roth gives to his characters. His online biography indicates that he trained to be an actor, first as an undergraduate at Yale University, and then at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London where he earned a three-year acting diploma and appeared in the Royal National Theatre’s West End run of Brighton Beach Memoirs.  He has taught theater for the Fairmount Performing Arts Conservatory, Akron City Schools and Hawken Middle School and directed “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Laramie Project” for FPAC. George’s film and television credits include “Batman,” “The Russia House,” “Nightbreed,” “Doing Time on Maple Drive,” “Tailspin,” “Murphy Brown,” “Love and War,” “Get a Life” and “Capital City.”
Brian Altman as John Jasper, the cathedral’s master of music and eternal murder suspect, displays his diabolically divided personalities with accents of evil and innocence that befit Dr. J and Mr. H. In his 20+ years on stage, Altman has always pleased audiences with his vocals and his ability to assume his character roles without flaw.
Tom Hill, an outstanding character actor, dances and struts his stuff as Durdles, grave digger and stone mason, the one who seems to know the most about the cathedral crypt.  Hill treats the audience to many laughs throughout the nearly three hour performance. Sandy K. Peck gets a high five for her delightful and enticing portrayal of Princess Puffer of the opium den and her other sundry wiles. 
Also impressive in this cast are Kyle Lorek as Neville Landless, transplant from Ceylon who has come with his twin sister to Cloisterham to study, and David Malinowski as Bazzard, a rather shy and strange clerk who has no reason for being written into the script — except to dazzle with a song that is given to him as an afterthought.
The role of Rosa Bud, the young love interest of quite a few of the characters and the pupil of music master John Jasper, was very nicely sung by Heather Arata. The operatic quality of her voice gave credence to her station in life as a student of music and a pending heiress. The title character was played by Kelly Smith who assumed the role of Alice Nutting, a male impersonator singing the role of Edwin Drood. (There’s the Victor-Victoria part). Smith did a yeoperson’s job in her role of a woman playing a woman who played a man.
The opening of this show found RRT almost full and that should be the case for the entire run of the show this weekend and Thursday, Friday and Saturday of next weekend.  It’s a fun, fun show that offers lots of laughs and surprises. If you go, make sure to vote. A hanging chad takes on new meaning when a murder has been committed. Tickets may be reserved by phoning the RRT box office at 428-7092. The curtain goes up each night at 8.