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Death By Design ~ A Comedy with Murder ~ Aldersgate Church Community Theater (ACCT)

Jordan Wright
March 12, 2018
Special to The Alexandria Times 

Bridgit: Emily Golden ~ Photo credit Howard Soroos

Oh, it’s murder alright and murder most foul and funny.  Ask Bridget (Emily Golden).  She’s the insolent maid with a penchant for solving mysteries.  It’s 1932 in the living room of the Bennett’s house in Cookham, England and Edward Bennet (James McDaniel) is fighting with his wife Sorel (Heather Norcross).  He’s a playwright.  She’s an actress and his muse.  Together they live a Noel Cowardesque life peopled with a bohemian, an activist and a politician.  In this zany bit of British froth, we are treated to a whirlwind of characters.

Edward and Sorel Bennett: James McDaniel and Heather Norcross ~ Photo credit Howard Soroos

Much to Edward’s dismay, Sorel has taken up with Walter Pearce (Larry Grey), a Conservative Party leader fresh from the hinterlands.  She’s invited him to stay the weekend at their country estate where insanity reigns supreme.  Walter is as naive as a kitten and ill-prepared for the Bennetts and their sophisticated hijinks.  He’s even more addled by Edward as the witness to his amorous undertakings with the delightful Sorel.

Bridgit and Jack: Emily Golden and Erik Rieloff ~ Photo credit Howard Soroos

Jack’s (Erik Rieloff) their chauffeur and he and Bridget have a thing.  Well, sort of – except Jack’s a Lothario which Bridget overlooks.  Then there’s Eric (Cal Whitehurst), the liberal activist and recent escapee from the local funny farm.  Got it?  You will.

Who is Dead: Elizabeth Replogle, James McDaniel, Heather Norcross, Carol Jean Clark, Cal Whitehurst and Erik Rieloff ~ Photo credit Howard Soroos

When Victoria Van Roth (Elizabeth Replogle) arrives swooning over her own artistic and psychic talents, Walter reacts with horror, “This is what comes from government funding of the Arts!” which gets a huge laugh from the audience.  This declaration, however, is Walter’s undoing in a house filled with artistes with guns and poisons, and the following morning he’s discovered dead as the proverbial doornail.  With the finger pointed at everyone else, the drinking begins in earnest, till everyone is decidedly sloshed and in firm possession of a reason to knock off Walter, including Victoria, Sorel’s kindred soulmate in Isadora Duncan dances and the contacting of the spirits.  Soon Alice (Carol Jean Clark), with connections to both Walter and Jack, arrives on the scene and Victoria is subsequently murdered.

It’s not easy to single out a few actors for recognition (it takes a village of cast and crew), but as the central character, Heather Norcross is marvelous.  Her part requires an excessive amount of over-the-top emoting and swanning about with a cocktail in hand – and she doesn’t miss a beat.  One minute she’s berating Edward and the next adoring him and just as suddenly she’s coddling the half-mad Eric or cavorting in impromptu skits with her pal Victoria.  I’d also like to single out Emily Golden as Bridget.  Golden gives us a strong, feisty character that centers the cast and provides the glue for this hilarious farce.

Director Eddie Page corrals the madness with excellent pacing by a fine cast of well-loved local actors.

Recommended for light “spirited” fun!

Through March 25th at the Aldersgate Church Community Theater, 1301 Collingwood Road, Alexandria, VA 22308.  For tickets and information on the performance, schedule visit

Front Row: James McDaniel and Heather Norcross Back Row: Erik Rieloff, Elizabeth Replogle, Larry Grey, Carol Jean Clark, Cal Whitehurst and Emily Golden ~ Photo credit Howard Soroos

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