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Tuesday, March 29,2011

Starlight shines

A success is announced: 'Murder' is fast-paced and enjoyably played

by Tom Helma

Return with us now to those thrilling moments of yesteryear — no, it is not the Green Hornet and not the Lone Ranger either, but rather Miss Marple of Agatha Christie fame, as presented in the Starlight Dinner Theater's production of “A Murder is Announced.”


While the notion of murder is more chilling than thrilling, Starlight Theater and director Lisa Sodman Elzinga have done a quite good job recre- Review ating the genre and timing of 1930s murder mysteries.


At the heart of this particular suspenseful tale is veteran actor Susan Chmurynsky as the formidable Letitia Blacklock, seemingly the intended victim in this twisty plot.


Chmurynsky is on stage for virtually every scene and, with measured speech and clear articulation, brings the entire production together. She's consistently focused and attentive to each of the other 10 characters in the play.


The rest of the cast comes on stage in Act One with a dizzying, off-to-the-races speed-read that enlivens what otherwise might have been a dullish nightmare.


Veronica Diebold as the ditzy Hungarian maid is way over any top, with a frenetic and angry performance that is so extreme it is delightfully, ridiculously funny. Legend in her own time Winifred Olds, as the meddling Miss Marple, demonstrates that she has not lost any of her extensive acting chops.


There are no dull, inarticulate performances in this production. All 11 actors have been dressed in appropriate era costuming by Gwendolyn Conarton and Sarah Fowler. Thanks to Sodman Elzinga’s fast-paced direction, the plot moves along, steady-as-you-go, with nuanced and often comic performances by all.


Sodman Elzinga shares set design honors with Bill Woodland, but this set would be an empty shell if not for the careful placement of antique objects by property designers Althea Phillips and Diane Erley.


Rarely does a production excel in all aspects. Starlight has taken an antique play and polished it to a spit-shine with 21st-century zip.


'A Murder is Announced'


Starlight Dinner Theatre Dinner is served at 6:30 p.m., with the show starting at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, through March 18 $30 for dinner and show; $25 for seniors and students with valid ID $15 for show only Waverly East Middle School, 3131 W. Michigan Ave., Lansing (517) 243-6040 starlightdinnertheatre @yahoo.com www.starlightdinner theatre.com

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