Whether you’re looking for a fun solo outing or a date night, A Taste For Murder Productions in residence at The Kentlands Mansion offers a whimsically delightful way to spend an afternoon or evening with a murderous whodunit paired with a dessert buffet and cash bar. Their latest production was “Calamity in Camelot” written by Stan Levin which played the weekend of July 26, 2019.
Although the two evening performances took place outdoors in the mansion garden, due to the heat advisory on Sunday afternoon the play was moved indoors – much to the relief of the audience and actors alike. The small cast of six did a marvelous job adapting quickly to a slightly cramped indoor setup and the show didn’t suffer in the least from the change of venue.
“Calamity in Camelot” brought us our favorite King Arthur characters – the monarch himself, of course, played with an amusingly dazed befuddlement by Peter Wolff; Queen Guinevere played to the hilt of overly dramatic hilarity by Elizabeth Weiss (who also burst into song throughout the play with a beautiful singing voice due to her character’s insistence on performing the entire Broadway catalog throughout the show); Laura Searles as an enticingly evil and conniving Morgan le Fay; Jennifer Georgia as the ethereal and slightly-out-of-touch-with-reality Lady of the Lake (her trancelike promenades across the stage were an audience favorite); Erin Kelman as Sir Lancelot with a spot-on French accent and attitude; and Tom Barylski as the whiny and bratty teenaged Mordred.
Of course, someone in Camelot gets murdered and the question is, who did the dastardly deed? I do wish the murder could have been discovered on stage instead of off, as I think it would have been much funnier and another possible audience participation role – because speaking of audience participation, I nearly forgot to mention the final cast member: the Royal Messenger, chosen from the audience and quickly trained in their royal and thespian duties (and, before the afternoon ended, even suspected of murder!)
As the cast goes through the play, they highlight different clues about who the murderer could be. At intermission, the audience enjoyed a dessert buffet beautifully catered by Kentland Mansion staff featuring a variety of delicious bite size goodies, from melt in your mouth madeleines to mini cheesecakes to cookies and brownies, as well as fruit and coffee. Amateur sleuthing and deductions were encouraged by the cast before the break, as everyone was invited to fill out voting ballots with their best guess as to who the murderer was.
The costumes designed by Elizabeth Weiss were gorgeous and perfectly captured the luxe atmosphere of Camelot mixed with the campy quality of the show. The set was very simple, just a few benches and of course Excalibur stuck fast in a stone, and I enjoyed the simplicity as the actors’ silly antics were where our focus needed to be for such an audience intensive show. While audience members weren’t specifically called upon (aside from the Messenger), the audience was invited to shout out feedback, hints, and clues at certain parts of the show.
My only concern with the whole experience was that one of the show’s plot points centered around childhood sexual abuse – in a lighthearted comedy! And, one of the characters was victim-shamed for having experienced the abuse. That was so unexpectedly dark and disturbing in a show that was meant to be silly and campy and I hope that the playwright would rethink that element; I think the show could easily be re-written with a less triggering topic.
I would like to point out that statistics (from a 2013 study, see d2l.org) are that 1 in 10 children will experience sexual abuse before turning 18 (and that is based on reported incidents only, as many people don’t report, and the study only includes contact abuse) so it’s safe to say that at least ten percent of the weekend’s audience members were survivors and may have been triggered out of the blue, probably not expecting such a serious theme to be found in a silly murder mystery set in Camelot in a style reminiscent of Monty Python.
Aside from that disturbing element, the show was wonderfully entertaining, the actors hilarious and enthusiastic, and the period costumes were imaginatively brilliant. The desserts were delicious and the audience appeared to be wonderfully relaxed and conversational with each other during intermission and after the show. I highly recommend A Taste For Murder Productions as a charming taste of something different for a fun theatrical outing.
Advisory: Childhood sexual abuse was a theme in this particular show. In general, A Taste For Murder Productions are recommended for children aged 15 and older.
Running Time: 2 hours with one intermission featuring a dessert buffet with cash bar
“Calamity in Camelot” was only playing for one weekend, so please check out A Taste For Murder Productions’ website for information on their upcoming shows which include the steampunk themed show “Deadline,” flying in on an airship in October, and Kill Again’s Island of castaways coming in March of 2020. For more information, click here.