The Big Magazine: THE MANOR is “funny, dramatic, and very moving”
Beverly Hills longest running immersive play, “The Manor” by Katherine Bates returns to the historic Greystone Mansion with an expert cast perfectly guided by Martin Thompson’s directorial hand and produced by Theatre 40 and the City of Beverly Hills.
“The Manor ‘’ is an immersive docu-play based on the Doheny family murders which took place inside the illustrious Greystone Mansion. Exactly how the murders happened would be debated for decades and covered up by wealth and power. Greystone was built in 1928 and originally called The Doheny Mansion. “The Manor” follows the MacAlister family which mirrors the story of the real life Doheny family murder/suicide that occurred almost 100 years ago at the mansion on top of a hill.
Upon arriving there is plenty of free parking and signs to guide you to the play. Ticket holders enter the mansion from the driveway where guests are escorted through double doors into a lavish living room with a large picturesque window and fireplace. A wedding scene is set up with rows of folding chairs. Guests are asked to pick any seat. Once you have selected your seat, it will remain yours for the entire play while in the living room.
The Manor starts out with James the butler (David Stafford) introducing the play’s characters as floating spirits that come to life to transport the audience to a celebratory scene in the 1920s where the wedding of Sean MacAlister (Eric Keitel) and Abby MacAlister (Nathalie Rudolph) takes place. Charles MacAlister (Darby Hinton) and his second wife Marion (Carol Potter), along with Senator Alfred Winston (Daniel Leslie) and his wife Cora (Melanie MacQueen) are all together celebrating the newly married MacAlister union.
Also present is Abby’s father, attorney Frank Parsons (Martin Thompson), Charles MacAlister’s secretary and unstable friend, Gregory Pugh (Mikel Parraga-Wills), and his wife, Henrietta Pugh (Kristen Rowles.) All bear witness to Charles McAlister gifting the 55-room Greystone Mansion to his son Sean and his bride. After that opening scene, the audience will split into three separate groups to embark on parallel journeys through the mansion.
Your guides for the evening are house servants (played by Daniel Lench, Katherine Henryk, and Esther Richman), which escort members to several locations throughout the mansion including the parlor, study, bedroom, and the grand entrance with an elaborate wooden staircase and chandelier. Each audience group will experience events in a slightly different order; however, everyone ends up in the living room for the final curtain.
From there we begin to see the family drama unfold. The characters’ relationships are intricate and meaningful. We see Abby as a young bride who struggles to commit to Sean MacAlister because she is still in love with an old flame, Gregory Pugh. Further family scandal transpires with Charles MacAlister and Senator Winston making a shady deal to fund a naval base in Hawaii in exchange for exclusive mining rights in the mountains of “Ojos Negros,” New Mexico. Charles MacAlister masks the funding as a loan and tells his son Sean MacAlister to deliver $100,000 cash to Senator Winston. Sean MacAlister takes his secretary and friend, Gregory Pugh along for the delivery.
There is a brief 15-minute intermission where guests can visit the restroom or hangout near the courtyard/driveway of the mansion to enjoy light snacks. The woman working the snack table offered a bit of fun trivia about the play characters until it was time to go back in.
The play resumes ten years later with James the Butler introducing the final Act. The aftermath of the backroom deal gone wrong has the MacAlister family in turmoil and at odds with Senator Alfred Winston and his wife Cora. The fictionalized transaction is based on The Teapot Dome scandal involving the administration of United States President Warren G. Harding and the Doheny family.
By the end of the play, each audience member is fully absorbed by The Manor’s wonderfully layered characters and compelling scenes. Members of our group were visibly moved to tears by gripping performances. The Manor is a must-see show whose actors make the play funny, dramatic, and very moving. Theatre 40 delivers an enjoyable experience that’s worth every penny of the ticket price. Those visiting Greystone Mansion Park will notice it looks very much like it did in the late 1920s. That’s because the property is carefully maintained by the city of Beverly Hills, which bought the property in 1965 for just over $1 million.
The Big Magazine
February 18, 2020