Descending down the basement stairs we’re taken to a music hall circa 1800s. Gold and red ornate trim decorates the proscenium and clamshell footlights beam from the front of the stage. Players fly out of the wings welcoming the audience to their show. The chairman calls for everyone to gather onstage as we’re about to begin the telling of Charles Dickens’ novel, THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD.
Saint Sebastian Players Play Within a Play
Our show is two-fold as our actors play actors performing their own show, THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD, attempting to provide an ending to Dickens’ unfinished work of the same name. Our chairman, played by Darryl Maximilian Robinson, is our ringmaster for the evening introducing the “actors” playing each character, narrating the story of Edwin Drood, and sometimes jumping in to fill in for a role.
He introduces us to the various characters in Edwin Drood’s life and each of their possible motives for his disappearance. Was it his predictably villainous uncle John Jasper? His fiancée the naive and innocent Rosa Bud? Or perhaps the Landless twins, Helena and Neville? The twist here is only the audience can decide how the ending plays out and the possible murderer is chosen by popular vote. Who do you think it will be?
The entire cast is upbeat and ready to perform their hearts out as they play an overexcited cast in this comedic mystery, most likely pleasing all in the audience. Sean Michael Barrett is particularly engaging as he manages to capture the Jekyll and Hyde nature of John Jasper. Combined with this dual personality, Barrett’s comically devious facial expressions provide the perfect villain for this story.
Equally as impressive is the man keeping our cast in order the Chairman and Mr. William Cartwright, Darryl Maximilian Robinson. He has the audience rolling in their seats with his penchant for flair and mastery of comedic timing - including some very well timed pointed stares and slow blinks.
Though the show calls for high energy as it is a comedy, for this writer, at times it felt as though keeping the play as campy as possible was the primary direction and the meat of the story got muddled in the many meta-theatrical layers and over the top acting.
Emphasis on Characters and Costumes
The show is rather tech light with minimal set pieces and projections used to set the scene. That did leave room for the costumes designed by Sandra Leander to take center stage alongside our actors and we’re presented with a wonderfully textured display of Victorian garb.
The sound and music has its ups and downs throughout the production. The actors don’t have mikes to assist in carrying their voices and so at times the music drowned them out and using pre-recorded music meant the timing could be slightly off in their musical numbers.
THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD is a delightful romp combining many fun layers into a laughable night out at the theatre. It might not be the best fit for those looking for a more down to earth musical. But it is an excellent fit for those looking for a campy, over the top musical mystery with a lot of audience participation.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read — Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Sean Michael Barrett
Peter Kattner III
Allison Rose Macknick
Eric S. Prahl
Darryl Maximilian Robinson
Now through November 18, 2018
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sundays at 2:00pm
1625 W. Diversey
All Photos by Eryn Walanka
About the Author
Alexis is a theater reviewer, travel bug, media specialist, and burger & beer enthusiast. During the day she works in the advertising business as a senior communications designer. When night falls, or when she can escape to New York, she’s hitting the theaters to see as many shows as she can. And whenever she’s not at her desk or in the audience, she’s out seeking the best burger and beer offerings in Chicago.
Editor's Note: Click here to read more Picture this Post articles by Alexis Bugajski