Jeff gapes with horror as Barnaby takes his last shallow breaths. He tenderly removes the bloody knife from Barnaby’s back. Barnaby gasps one last shattering gasp and he goes limp. He is dead. The rest of the party rushes into the mansion parlor, exclaiming with horror as one by one, they discover that Barnaby, the Leduc family pauper, has been brutally murdered. Suspicion replaces the initial shock as each character hastily offers a dubious alibi explaining their previous whereabouts. However, because no motive can be found, the question becomes not “who bumped off Barnaby,” but “Why Bump Off Barnaby?”
“Good, but, Drake, you gotta die more,” advises Catherine Miller, Paul VI’s theater director, as her cast relax into very teenager-ish slumps, shedding their proper wealthy British characters. CJ Bergin, who plays Jack, helps Drake Johnson, a.k.a. Barnaby, off the table. Rehearsal is underway for Paul VI’s fall play of this murder mystery farce to be presented on Nov. 17-18, at 7 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Nov. 19 in the Heet auditorium.
“Barnaby” is a farce that utilizes very common murder mystery clichés. A group of quirky stock characters gather to solve the family tontine, a riddle revealing the location of the family fortune in the spooky Leduc family mansion in dreary England. All are very wealthy, except for Barnaby, the family pauper. Thus, when Barnaby is brutally murdered, the puzzle becomes: “But Why Bump off Barnaby?” Everyone is a suspect: Medkins, the butler; Magnolia, the high strung maid; Orion Leduc, the ancient family patriarch; Lady Barbara Folcey, an elderly woman with a penchant for sherry; Rosalind Barstow, the flamboyant fortune hunter; Cleo Barton, the glamorous Hollywood actress; Miss Barnsdale, the nearsighted governess; Dora, the dimwitted ingenue; and Jack Barnett, “intrepid police reporter.” Chaos ensues as Jeff Barnett, struggles with his nonsensical fiancée, Dora, her crazy family and to discover the identity of the killer before they are all murdered. The mayhem continues with disappearing bodies, green poison, and hidden identities.
Bergin comments on the script: “The script is genius. The playwrite, Rick Abbot, created this amazing plot, but never lost sight that this play is a farce; the characters constantly make fun of themselves in these seemingly serious situations.” Director Miller selected this play especially for her students: “I chose this play because it's a little off the beaten path. It is an ensemble show, with few leads and tons of great parts. It's also hilarious and I knew that this crowd could do it.”
For this ensemble cast, Miller assembled a dynamic group of veteran actors. For seniors James Klingenburg, Francesca Chilcote, David Fritzson, Karen Kelleher, Ginny Hansen, CJ Bergin, Kelly Selnick, and Janna Vloet, “Barnaby?” will be their last high school play. For Miller, “Barnaby?” holds uncommon sentimental value, “This play is very special because of the number of seniors. Their first year was my first year, and in many ways, we grew up together, only they leave and I stay.” Senior Kelleher comments on the nature of an ensemble cast: “Everyone is dependent each other to produce the best show possible.” Each character also has an understudy. The understudy cast rehearses in conjunction with the main cast. If any main cast member cannot make a rehearsal, or even a performance, each understudy is prepared to step in. “The understudies help me sleep better at night,” Miller declares. Being an understudy also offers a great opportunity for experience. Many main cast members for “Barnaby?” were understudies last year. The cast performs its own production of “Barnaby?” Saturday, Nov. 18 at 2 p.m.
“But Why Bump Off Barnaby” is a hilarious comedy that is sure to entertain both children and adults. “Barnaby” will open on Friday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. Additional Performances: Nov. 18th at 2 pm. (Understudy) and 7 p.m., Nov. 19 at 2 p.m.