Review: Death by Design

Sophomore Lauren Fischer sat in on a dress rehearsal of the BVNW production of "Death by Design" and gives her review.

Lauren Fischer, Staff Writer

A weekend in the English country, a radical socialist and a murder mystery? These things can all seem pretty unrelated, but they come together in BVNW’s fall play “Death by Design” by Rob Urbinati.

The play is set in an English country manor in 1932, where Soral Bennett (Alea Beaman) and Edward Bennett (Griffin Leander) plan to spend the weekend away from the bustling city of London. However, their weekend is interrupted by a number of strange guests who keep popping in. There’s Walter Pearce (Alec Feather), the stiff, conservative politician Mrs. Bennett is fond of. Next, a young man named Eric (Spencer Halverson) shows up at the manor, proclaiming his radical opinions to anyone who will listen.  Perhaps the strangest visitor is Victoria Van Roth (Tasia Jewel), who has a passion for modern dance and anything artistic. The Bennetts also have a quick-to-accuse maid named Bridgit (Lauryn Nelson), who is intent on solving the murder mystery, and a charming chauffeur named Jack (Jackson Muccino). When a seemingly-confused woman named Alice (Annie Arnett) comes to the manor and supposedly murders Mr. Pearce, Bridgit takes the initiative to investigate the murder; saying, “No one leaves this room until I discover who murdered Walter Pearce!”

I really enjoyed watching all of these quirky characters try to solve a murder mystery and seeing how they all related to one another on stage. The cast did a splendid job of taking these very different characters and making them all work in a way that was very pleasing to watch.

Much of the humor in the play comes from watching the various characters try to work together to solve a mystery, despite their different quirks. The actors did a nice job of getting into their characters.  I quickly noticed how the cast members were always in character; even if they were not speaking. This made the overall play much more enjoyable to watch and helped further engage the audience in the plot.

One character’s performance I was especially enjoyed was Tasia Jewel’s character, Victoria Van Roth. She brought a great amount of comedy into the play, and how she related to the other characters was very amusing. Van Roth’s attitude about Walter Pearce’s murder is incredibly entertaining, as her love for her own artwork often outweighs her liking of Mr. Pearce.

The end of the play can be a bit confusing due to the many twists and turns that occur.  The audience does not truly know who the murderer is, or if there even was a murderer until the very last scene. You have to listen to the characters very carefully to follow what did and did not happen. However, all of the twists and turns make the show very compelling until the last line.  

“Death by Design” definitely lives up to being a “comedy with murder.” I found all the characters’ personalities to be highly entertaining, and any fan of murder mysteries or comedy would enjoy this play. Between the quirky characters and the constantly evolving plot, “Death by Design” captured me as an audience member and did not let me go until the cast finished their bows.

The final showing of “Death by Design” will take place 7 p.m. Friday.