Mystery abounds in Kent County Theatre Guild’s ‘Strictly Murder’

Cast members from left, Bob Barto as Josef, Stephen Davis as Peter, Brittany Vazquez as Suzy, Jeff Mask as Ross and Keysha Martinez as Miriam in “Strictly Murder.” (Delaware State News photo by Marc Clery)

DOVER — A pre-World War II tale of deception, turmoil and murder will be brought to the stage starting this weekend with the Kent County Theatre Guild’s performance of “Strictly Murder.”

The play, set in rural France in 1939, focuses on a couple — a man named Peter and his much younger, pregnant partner Suzy. They live in Provence in the days before World War II.

“He’s an artist and a farmhand, and possibly something else his female companion isn’t aware of,” said Stephen Davis of Camden, playing the role of Peter.

“She’s upset and anxious because she’s pregnant but has a man who won’t commit,” said Brooklyn Vasquez,

Stephen Davis as Peter, and Brittany Vazquez as Suzy. (Delaware State News photo by Marc Clery)

portraying Suzy.

Director Steve Caporiccio stumbled upon the play written by Brian Clemens a few years ago and when he was given his choice this year, “Strictly Murder” was it.

“I really love murder mysteries,” he said. “They’re always fun because there are surprises and plenty of twists and turns.”

None of the actors had heard of the play before the casting call but all were intrigued once they received a copy of the script.

“I was surprised I’d never heard of it because it’s so well written and a great, suspenseful story,” said actor Jeff Mask of Dover.

“It’s so interesting because even though there’s a small cast, hardly anyone is who you think they are and every scene leaves you wondering what will happen in the next,” said Keysha Martinez playing the role of police superintendent Miriam Miller. “None of the pieces come together until the very end.”

“Strictly Murder” only has a five-member cast and compared to recent Theatre Guild productions like “Sister Act,” a show that Ms. Vasquez and Ms. Martinez both performed in, that’s a significant decrease.

“Small casts are always a lot of fun because you get to know the other actors and each of their characters very well so it lets us play off each other very well,” Mr. Davis said.

Not only do the actors get to know the characters well, the audience gets to know the characters well too.

“With a small cast, there’s a lot of eyes on you,” Ms. Vasquez said. “You can’t hide or fade into the background so it’s a great chance to become more confident.”

Although there are only five cast members, there are six characters as Mr. Mask plays a set of very different twins.

“It’s fun to do multiple characters,” he said.

“I’ve been doing improv for about three years now. So in one night you might be playing up to 10 different characters, so through that experience, two characters in one night isn’t too bad.”

For most of the actors, “Strictly Murder” is one of the few dramas or thrillers they’ve performed in.

“I’m naturally an outgoing person and that’s why I got into acting in the first place,” Ms. Vasquez said. “So my characters are usually more like me — I’ve never had a quiet, shy character like Suzy before.”

For Ms. Martinez, “Strictly Murder” straight plays in general are still relatively new because she’s primarily done musicals in the past.

“Singing is my forte so most recently I’ve done ‘Funny Girl’ and ‘Sister Act,’” she said. “Doing a drama is very different, but it’s fun to try something new.”

Although the play takes place in France, all the characters are British and therefore the actors must perform with English accents.

Stephen Davis as Peter, left, and Bob Barto as Josef in “Strictly Murder.” (Delaware State News photo by Marc Clery)

“It’s a lot of fun but it can be difficult because you’re thinking in your normal accent but have to speak in an English one,” Mr. Davis said. “It takes some control to not lose the accent while you’re performing.”

With the curtain going up tonight, the actors are starting the exciting nervousness that comes with opening night.

“You always get a little nervous because you’ve put a lot of hard work in and you hope that everyone enjoys it,” Mr. Davis said. “You hope that you give a performance that gives people something to talk about on the drive home and I think this play will provide that.”

The play will be performed at the Patchwork Playhouse at 140 E. Roosevelt Ave in Dover today and Saturday and Nov. 17 and 18 at 8 p.m. and Sunday and Nov. 19 at 2 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased at the door or at kctg.org.

Ashton Brown is a freelance writer living in Dover.

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