by Kristan Tate and Alex Zylka
[Editor’s Note: We know, we know, but we’re not posting this review late just because we’re lazy slobs; we’re also doing it in a vain attempt to sate our pun-addiction.]
We knew this play would be different because petitioners garnering for accusations of murder greeted us with British accents even before we entered the Playhouse door. And we were in the company of said accents for the next three hours, during the wonderful performance of The Mystery of Edward Droof, put on by the RPI Players this May. One of us had a front row seat, and the other brought a date and had to sit in the last row since he was clearly intending on polluting the S&W bloodline by doing… you know… with that date of his.
Walking in, we saw first a deceitfully simple set that consisted of only one permanent element: a tall platform to the left of the stage dressed to look like either an office or an old grandmother’s hidey-hole—we couldn’t tell which. We say deceitful, because throughout the play the bare stage was given life by the continuously revolving (not literally) sets that ranged from homes, to an dank opium den, to a cemetery, to the lively street of Cloisterham itself (no fat nuns were featured in this production, to our vast disappointment). The live orchestra was ensconced by a half-circle catwalk that jutted out into the audience, allowing the performers to more freely interact with the audience—and boy, did they. Puffer, the expertly played opium den-mother, was particularly interactive, at one point making the entire audience stand up and sing “The Wages of Sin” mantra of the similarly-named song at its ending, over and over again. We all sang so hard that one of the audience members literally passed out, recreating an opening scene from House, M.D., we’re sure. [Editor’s Note: Turns out that person was totally fine! So don’t worry! We should point out that the Players were entirely professional in how they handled the situation: starting the scene over without any complaints.]
Our favourite aspect of the play was how the mics would cut in and out, constantly allowing us the opportunity to sub in funnier lines. For instance, (_____: dead silence goes here). [Editor’s Note: That’s a joke about our own incompetence; we’re not saying that dead silence is funnier than the Players.] But more seriously, the hipster-level meta nature of the play made us all feel like the privileged little millennials we are. Droof is a play within a play, the former being managed by the eccentric chairman of The Music Hall Royale (with an e, so you know it’s British), who was such a professional that, at the news that one of the lesser fake actors of the play-within was too drunk to perform, top-hattingly leaped into understudying action. Oh! And someone died! I think it was the main character? What was his name…? Right, Edward Droof, obviously. Played by a female, we remember that distinctly.
Right, so throughout the whole play, WE thought the killer was Jasper (Droof’s creepy uncle that’s crazy into sexing Droof’s fiancée, named Rosa Bud because Dickens is A. killer with subtlety, and B. actually Charles Foster Kane). Somehow this was proven to false; and it turns out THE AUDIENCE KNEW WHO THE KILLER WAS THE WHOLE TIME (because they took a vote after the murder). The entire audience fingered Helen Landless, who apparently killed Droof via a candlestick in the bathroom. [Editor’s Note: We made that part up.] Surprise! We voted on more things too. Like, who was Dick Datchery, the creepy detective? No idea. [Editor’s Note: Give us a break. It was months ago and we didn’t take very good notes.]
Who was going to become entwined in a wet, sloppy romantic affair? Why, it was two young gentlemen, Neville Landless and Bazzard! Because the audience decided to have some fun on the closing night of the show in valiantly vocally vying to rock the vote towards those two rocking a bed later that night. And that’s how we know closing night was a success for everyone involved. Cheerio, mates!