Friday, October 5, 2012

Taproot’s ‘Gaudy Night’ a Hit with Mystery Fans

Jeff Berryman and Alyson Scadron Branner in Gaudy Night.
Photo by Erik Stuhaug. 

Mystery as a genre appears to be more popular than ever. There is a little movie franchise based on the Sherlock Holmes character that is doing quite well, and two TV series that have taken a modern view of the character.  So it should be no surprise that Taproot Theatre’s production of “Gaudy Night,” a classic British mystery story by Dorothy L. Sayers, is appealing to Seattle audiences as well. The theatre just announced that the show has been extended through October 27, a week later than originally planned. (Ironically, the theatre also announced that they will bring back the holiday mystery, “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol” this winter, but that is another story.)

Fans of Dorothy L. Sayers’ writing will be thrilled to know that, “Gaudy Night” features two beloved mystery solvers; Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey. I had the pleasure of sitting next to a woman who was a fan of the original book and thought the stage adaptation by France Limoncelli was right on.

The story takes place with Harriet Vane (Alyson Scadron Branner) attending an Oxford reunion only to be terrorized by murderous threats. Harriet isn’t the only one to receive the threats and it appears that many lives will be lost if the “poison pen” writer (who ironically sends notes with cut out letters rather than actually writing them with an actual pen) isn’t stopped. She recruits the help of Lord Peter Wimsey (Jeff Berryman), who is terribly in love with her, to help solve the case. This is actually a conflict of interest for Harriet since she sees herself as an independent woman who doesn’t want to rely on the help of a man, but at the same time longs for companionship.

Pam Nolte, Ruth McRee, Gretchen Douma and 
Alyson Scadron Branner in Gaudy Night.
Photo by Erik Stuhaug.
Taproot’s production is directed by Scott Nolte, the theatre’s producing artistic director, and  features a cast of top-notch actors including Branner and Berryman, whose talents are large enough that they could practically do the show all by themselves if they had to. Branner carries most of the weight of the story and is featured in every scene. Her hair and costume, compliments of the costume staff, give her the look you would expect Harriet to have. Fortunately for them, the duo does not have to do the show alone. The supporting cast is full or big talent as well including Taproot alumni actors Pam Nolte, Jenny Cross, Kim Morris and Nikki Visel. Along for the ride is returning actors, Gretchen Douma and Ruth Mcree (who was so good in Taproot’s “Tartuffe”) and newbie, Conner Neddersen, who juggles three roles flawlessly.

As good as “Gaudy Night” is, it is not for everyone. The play runs a little longer than other Taproot plays and the pace is a little slower as well. All of the lines in this British play are spoken like poetry, sometimes cryptic and in an accent that at times is hard to understand. There is plenty of humor in the story, but it is not a comedy that young children would enjoy.

“Gaudy Night” continues its run until October 27. Performances are presented at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and a 2:00 p.m. matinee is presented on Saturdays as well. Tickets range from $22-$37 with a $5 discount for senior and students. For those under 25, they can get in for a steal at just $15. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 206.781.9708. (Originally posted on Examiner.com)

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