Love a good mystery? The Brits are masters of the genre and know how to do bad in a very civilized way. Here’s one written in 1959, which lay dormant until Theatre 40’s Artistic Director David Hunt Stafford discovered and resurrected it. The subjects, greed, deception, miserable marriages etc., are just as relevant today as they were decades ago.
An elegant cottage in Sussex (designed by the talented Jeff G. Rack) is the setting for this murder mystery. The man of the house (the inimitable David Hunt Staffford) who dislikes kids, along with just about everyone else, is nevertheless a very successful author of children’s books. His unhappy wife Anne (Kate Whitney) vainly begs for a divorce which he won’t grant because it might hurt his image as a family man. No deal, even when she confesses to an extramarital affair with an attractive man, Peter (Gabriel Oliva). The less I tell you about the schemes that are hatched on this stage, the better you’ll like the play. The plot has more twists and turns and ups and downs than a roller coaster. Secrets are revealed, private conversations are exposed and clever plans to commit murder hit a few snags. In his directorial debut at Theatre 40, Adrian Cohen makes sure nobody is bored. Stafford plays the villain with his usual gusto. For example, he cheerfully whistles a Gilbert & Sullivan tune, while commanding his long suffering wife to serve him a drink while he’s taking a bath. She’s one miserable lady who would like children but of course, he does not. Her lover (Oliva) cuts a suitably dashing figure. Roslyn Cohn is Charles’ secretary, Miss Forbes. She’s got an eye for the boss and it’s obvious, this is a woman who does not plan to spend the rest of her life taking dictation. Peter Trencher pleases as Inspector Davidson, a dignified investigator, not the usual bumbling cop and David Westbay has a cameo as a constable. Michèle Young designed the vintage costumes and “Sloe” Slawinski, the sound genius, gives us offstage car arrivals and departures plus a doosy of a thunder storm. Don’t even try to guess the denouement.