Meet Inspector Ruffing. Cut from the same cloth as Dame Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Inspector Ruffing is a complex detective with sharp observation skills and his own mysterious backstory. The creation of contemporary American playwright Don Nigro, Inspector Ruffing is the central character in seven of Nigro’s over 400 plays.
In The Colonial Players’ production of “Ravenscroft,” we find Inspector Ruffing investigating the untimely death of handsome manservant Patrick Roarke. As snow falls on the grounds of the tranquil English manor house, our detective must determine whether Patrick’s fall from the top of the staircase was an accident or, in fact, a murder. If Patrick was pushed, who is his most likely suspect? What was the motive?
…magnificent…fabulous and funny…a must-see!
Inspector Ruffing questions the other members of the household: the recently widowed Mrs. Ravenscroft; her unstable teenage daughter Gillian; Gillian’s Viennese governess Marcy; the lusty housekeeper Mrs. French; and the dim-witted maid Dolly. Each of these beguiling women tells a contradictory tale of what they witnessed on the night of Patrick’s demise. It’s up to Inspector Ruffing to piece together the truth, but first, he’ll need a drink—or five. After all, some of ladies are making sexual overtures towards him while others are hiding dark secrets. While some weaving tales of ghosts, all appear to have had a complicated relationship with the deceased.
Under the direction of Alex Brady, Richard A. Miller leads the ensemble cast as the harried Inspector Ruffing eager to untangle the many lies, half-truths, and strangely distorted accounts being fed to him by the ladies in Ravenscroft’s household. Heather Quinn shines as the calculating Mrs. Ravenscroft and Mackenzie Carroll is brilliant as her flirtatious, but deranged daughter.
Colleen Isaiah plays the flighty and anxious maid Dolly with physical finesse and perfect comedic timing. As the daring and formidable housekeeper Mrs. French, Robin Schwartz is divine. Devin Thrasher rounds out the cast beautifully as the lovely and somewhat icy governess Marcy.
No one actor stands out in this production because they are all magnificent in their roles. From Thrasher’s High-German accent to Isaiah’s clumsy bumbling, The Colonial Players are fabulous and funny in this dark comedy best described as a cross between “Downton Abbey” and “Clue.” Their flawless performance keeps the audience entertained and on the edge of their seats until the very end.
The creative team behind the scenes is to be commended, too. Costume Designer Christina McAlpine and Hair Designer Rebecca Kotraba stayed true to the period with Edwardian fashion and coiffed Gibson Girl hair. Set Designer Carrie Brady and Properties Designer Carrie Shade transformed the 360° stage into a fine English parlor. Sound Designer Richard Atha-Nicholls kept the music slightly spooky setting the appropriate ambiance of a classic whodunit.
If you love a good mystery—and a good laugh—“Ravenscroft” is a must-see!
Running time: Two hours, 25 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.
Advisory: Adult themes
“Ravenscroft” runs through June 10, 2023 Thursdays through Sundays at The Colonial Players, 108 East St, Annapolis, MD 21401. For more information and tickets, go online. Face masks will be required for all patrons at the following performances: Sunday, June 4, 2023 and Friday, June 9, 2023. Face masks are optional for all other performances. Six shows will be live-streamed, June 2-4 and 8-10 (Please note, these live streams will occur in real time, and will not be available on-demand.) For more information and tickets, click here.