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SVC Theatre finds the light switch in fall production

By Sean Callahan, Editor-in-Chief

Originally Published November 7, 2023

Two years have passed since the performance of Clue, the first in-person performance by the SVC Players since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. A murder mystery saw the return of an exhilarating opening night crowd at the Performing Arts Center (PAC) in fall of 2021. This year, lightning struck twice for the Players. They performed ‘While the Lights Were Out’, another murder mystery, for their fall play production, and received a packed theatre on opening night.

The show was performed on Friday, Nov. 3 and Saturday Nov. 4 at 7:30 p.m, and Sunday Nov. 5 at 2 p.m, in the PAC.

The book of ‘While the Lights Were Out’ was written by John Michael Sharkey, a writer and playwright who has written over eighty different plays, in addition to many short stories and novels.

This comedic murder mystery centers on a group of individuals who come together for a dinner party, which is disturbed by uninvited guests and eventually a bizarre murder. The party is hosted by characters Lady Monica Wickenham (played by Anna Doelling, senior biology major) and her abusive husband, Lord Clive Wickenham (played by Brayden Gibson, junior). The servants of the Wickenhams include Nancy Stafford (played by Caitlin Hopkins, junior digital art and media double major), Mimosa (played by Kelly Burd, undeclared sophomore, and Remley (played by Joseph Valenty, senior economics major).

Invited attendees include Algernon Wickhenham (played by Andrew Downs, sophomore mathematics and music double major), Jasmine Perdoo (played by Lindsey Benjamin, junior biology major) Bibi Cavendish (played by Rachel Andreola, senior mathematics major), Fredonia Custardine (played by Erin Brody, junior theology and English double major) and her daughter Chloe Custardine (played by Abigail McGinnis, sophomore vocal performance major).

The party is gradually crashed by uninvited guests, including Pierre Pourri (played by Reilly McKay, junior communication and digital art and media double major), head detective Benjamin Braddock (played by Spencer Millay, junior vocal performance and criminology double major) and his assistant detective Alma Threedle (played by Nora Cabala, sophomore data science major).

The cast of ‘While the Lights Were Out’ poses for a picture. (SOURCE: LIZ PALMER)

‘While the Lights Were Out’ was split into three acts. The first act consisted of character introductions, including most uninvited guests, and concludes with the murder of Clive Wickenham. The second act consisted of the detectives putting together the mystery of Clive’s murder, and then the sudden death of detested guest Jasmine Perdoo (which prompts Fredonia Custardine to insist there are ‘two murders’). The final act consisted of the revelations of the murder, or whether there were two murders at all.

The play is unique in that it subverts the expectations of a murder mystery story, to a level of absurdity that results in audience laughter and curiosity. For example, many characters come from backgrounds of wealth and nobility. This is exaggerated through their snobby personalities, mannerisms, and strong accents pertaining to their nationalities. Additionally, Detective Braddock is an overly enthusiastic, clueless, and egotistical man, compared to his clearly competent and clever assistant, Detective Threedle.

However, the plot lines and backstories of characters are another murder mystery element the play pokes fun at. The audience is presented with numerous character developments each act, such as secret love affairs, an unidentified blonde (played by Elizabeth Van Pilsum, junior English major) suddenly appearing in the middle of Clive’s murder as the lights go out, and jarring shifts from suspect to suspect. Many of the backgrounds overlap. Some revelations put characters in a bizarre situation, such as the unidentified blonde being revealed as Detective Braddock’s college girlfriend.

‘While the Lights Were Out’ is the last play performance at SVC for several seniors, including Doelling. However, she intends to audition for this spring’s musical ‘The Sound of Music’ and The Company’s spring cabaret. She is very happy to have participated in this play.

“My favorite memories truly come from hanging out with the cast! The people involved are what make the show,” Doelling said.

Dr. Gregory Brandt, Director of Theatre Operations, decided it was time to direct a murder mystery again, given that the performances were scheduled to occur after Halloween. He also wanted a larger cast. He is proud of the performance of the cast, and cited rehearsal as among his favorite memories, specifically the end of act one and the middle of act three.

Brandt acknowledges that, while it is always an emotional time to arrive at a final play performance for seniors, he finds it fulfilling as well. He believes their performance skills will aid them in their future.

“Remembering life, like acting, is about making choices and how you pick yourself up when times are rough. Keeping positive and realizing life is a long journey only helps with your attitude every day,” Brandt said.

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