A merry little murder mystery: JCCT to present “The Game’s Afoot, or Holmes for the Holidays”


BROWNSTOWN — Bundle up and put on your detective hats with Jackson County Community Theatre this holiday season with its premiere of “The Game’s Afoot, or Holmes for the Holidays” by playwright Ken Ludwig.

Winning the Edgar Award for Best Play in 2012, which honors the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction, television, film and theater, this play also offers moments of lighthearted comedy in this chilly Christmas crime story.

The play follows Broadway star William Gillette in December 1936. Admired the world for his leading role in the play “Sherlock Holmes,” he has invited his fellow cast members to his Connecticut castle for a weekend for revelry.

But when one of the guests is stabbed to death, the festivities in this isolated house of tricks and mirrors quickly turn dangerous. It is then up to Gillette himself, as he assumes the persona of his beloved Holmes, to track down the killer before the next victim appears.

Show dates will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and again Dec. 8 and 9 and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Royal Off-the-Square Theatre, 121 W. Walnut St., Brownstown. Adult tickets are $15. Student and senior tickets are $12.

“What drew me to this play was the characters themselves,” Director Larry Hartley said. “The eight characters in this play are interesting people, and that makes it very challenging for the actor to create this unique individual.”

Hartley said theater has always been his passion, and he has directed around 40 plays in his lifetime. He directed his first show when he was in his early 20s, and this is his second time directing a play for JCCT.

“I am looking forward to a really successful play, and I hope a lot of people come see it,” he said. “The collaboration and community that we have are extraordinary. We have had some bumps in the road, but there is a comradery within the group. This one is special.”

Hartley said he is looking forward to the audience figuring out whodunit in this festive murder mystery.

Stacey Williams, who plays witty and abrasive theater critic Daria Chase, said her character is the kind of person you love to hate.

“Her arrival is a surprise to everyone except for the host, and the first time you hear my name, everyone is like, “Oh no! Not her,’” she said. “But she is clever, witty and makes you laugh. She also drives the plot for the first act.”

Williams, who is a mom of three kids and a teacher at Seymour High School, said it has been fun to immerse herself into a character that is completely different from herself.

“I kind of like to play the villain,” she said. “She has some great lines, and it’s such a fun part to play. The last role that I had there was in 2019, and it was ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,’ and I played the witch. She was also kind of a villain.”

Williams said she is looking forward to seeing an audience on opening night and hopes to hear some laughs.

“It’s hard to know how the audience will think of the play until they are there, but I think hearing some laughs will give us all new energy,” she said.

Jeremy Hendrix is playing the actor William Gillette, who is obsessed with becoming the next Sherlock Holmes. He said his role has been really fun to play.

“He is not as bright as he thinks he is, and it’s just really fun to play,” she said. “It also takes place in the 1930s. You get to be in a different time.”

Hendrix said he enjoys the unexpected and hopes the audience is caught off guard with the many twists this play offers as well as the comedic relief.

“Everybody is here because they love what they do, and this experience has been a real pleasure,” he said.

On top of having the lead role, Hendrix has the opportunity to perform onstage with his wife, Rebecca, who plays Aggie Wheeler, a budding actor amongst the troupe.

“We met at a play at ACTS (Actors Community Theatre of Seymour), and working with him is so fun,” she said. “I like being able to practice at home with him and seeing him come onstage and light up.”

Rebecca said she originally auditioned for the role of Daria but has grown to like aspects of Aggie’s character.

“I like how dynamic Aggie can be, and I think she always tries to be the light in the room,” she said. “I auditioned to be Daria, but I like Aggie because she gave me an opportunity to grow as an actress.”

Rebecca said seeing how each character has developed over time has been interesting to see, and the work each person has put into their role has been really special.

“We have a really dedicated group here, and not a lot of casts have that,” she said.

The rest of the acting troupe is played by Rieder MacDonald, Curtis Nowling and Stephanie Estes. The members of William’s acting troupe take on new roles as they attempt to solve the crime in this fast-paced comedy.

Other cast members are MaryAnna Garrett as Inspector Harriet Goring and Olivia Nguyen as Martha Gillette, William’s mother.

Andy Dick is production manager, and Lucy Horton is assistant director. Joe Bradley, Joe Reynolds and Joel McGill constructed the set. Amanda Dick is costumer, Paul Angle is in charge of lighting and Brinna Sharp is production assistant.

Ludwig’s comedies have been entertaining JCCT fans for many years, beginning with “Leading Ladies” in 2008 and to be presented again in the spring of 2024. More recently, “Moon Over Buffalo,” “The Gods of Comedy” and “Baskerville” have shown why one critic named Ludwig “America’s preeminent comic playwright.”

Tickets are available online through jcct.org or at Artistic Impressions in Seymour and Ewing Unique Boutique in Brownstown. Phone orders may be made at 812-358-5228.

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