The lights dim, thunder booms, and the commission of the Starkfamily gathering begins.
Clue comes to life within Murders in the Heir, a straight-play, interactive mystery that came to life at Glenwood Springs High School on October 11th and 12th.
Not exactly titled “Family Reunion of the Year”, the Starkweather family gathers to discuss the will of Mr. Starkweather (played by junior Johnathan Webster), an eccentric multi-billionaire whose only loves are his money and well, money. The audience is introduced to the long and confusing family tree, as well as the wide variety of servants that live in the mansion as well. His lawyer, Louis van Zandt (played by sophomore Jillian) reveals that Starkweather has given vast amounts of his fortune to his niece Fiona (played by junior Macy Dehm), her play-boy son Jordan (played by junior Ashton Korth), his great-southern-belle-niece Paula (played by sophomore Hannah Feeny), his wide-arrange of servants, and last but not least, his grandson Simon III (played by junior Johnathan Webster), who doesn’t appear until Act II.
However, before the family and servants can get their hands on their new fortune, the tyrannical Mr. Starkweather decides to throw everyone for a loop and reveals that he wishes to be cloned so that he can live forever, as well as only give each person $50,000 and keep the rest so that when he comes back to life, he can continue to spend his fortune himself.
Predictably, the heirs and servants were not pleased and continued to roam the mansion, carrying mysterious items, such as an ax, a gun, and poison. And yet again, just as predictably, the lights go out when the grandfather is discovered mysteriously murdered.
Eventually, Simon III shows and is determined to find his grandfather’s killer. With the help of Kate Thulson’s beautifully played Detective Davis and the many twists and turns of the script, both Simon III and the audience play a game of cat and mouse, guessing who the murderer was. The ending of the play was to be decided by the audience at intermission, which left both the audience and actors wondering who the culprit of the night was.
Murder’s in the Heir was definitely a turn to a new page for the drama department. Usually only taking on the spring musical, which is Footloose this year, the straight play introduced a new side of acting to Glenwood High school’s stage that isn’t commonly seen.
“Guv wanted to do a straight play with students for a while now,” said co-director senior Grace Burner. “We wanted to dip (students) toes deeper into the world of theatre who were intimidated by the idea of singing and dancing in public, or who wanted to continue acting within the school outside of the musical.”
To me, the most well-done characters were the characters who didn’t always have the spotlight.
Other than the main Starkweather family, background characters such as sophomore Ava Hillbrand’s stern housekeeper attitude, sophomore James Howell’s perfectionist butler, freshman Tyler Madden’s witty and clueless handyman, sophomore Emma Price’s controlling nurse, sophomore Ellie’s over-the-top accountant, junior Gabi Bartnick’s shy maid, and junior Hannah Cordova’s angry and bossy cook truly made the play feel more alive.
My favorite characters were Macy Dehm’s clueless Fiona, Ava Hillbrand’s serious housekeeper, and Tyler Madden’s witty handyman. I got the most giggles from these three characters and thought these actors truly helped the story move along very well.
However, there were some actors that were either over-acting or not acting well enough. Every once in a while, I would be jolted from my seat when an actor would aggressively yell their line and stomp down the stage. Other times, I was put into a daze from the poor characterization and/or memorization that was being put on show. Along with the sometimes boring and repetitive script in general, the play felt a little long. On the Friday night I went to see the play, the ending that was surprisingly chosen also felt dissatisfactory and anti-climatic. I was expecting a larger performance then what was given, and instead, I was being left with an answer that just didn’t quite hit the feeling of comlpetion.
Nonetheless, the casting was beautiful, and for being almost completely student-led, the first-ever straight play performed to the community deserved a chance in the spotlight. Compared to a cast and crew of usually about 60-80 kids during the Spring musical, the tight-knit cast and crew of 44 opened up a whole new type of acting.
“It was a great group of people,” said Ava Hillbrand. “We all did a pretty equal amount of time and energy into the play, as well as got to know each other better and grow closer.”
The play ended on Saturday, with the audience-chosen killer, Ashton Korth, bringing to stage his own version of the script and creating a one-of-a-kind ending to an amazing beginning.
Hopefully, another play will be put on in the fall of next year as well, giving students another opportunity to shine on stage, without the pressure of singing and dancing.
Already, this year’s spring musical, Footloose, is also underway. If you would like to get involved with the backstage crew, makeup, costumes, or tech, or have questions, please contact Kate Mcraith, Grace Burner, or Lisa Hartert. Sign up sheets for these areas are also up in the drama hall hanging on the wall.