Heritage High School puts on: Whodunnit

By Emma Barnes

Heritage High Whodunnit
L to R:  Luke Ondek, Malani Fenner-Smith, Gracie Cunningham, TJ D’Onofrio, Emma Saville

Extra, extra! Read all about it! Blanche Farthingale’s priceless necklace stolen in mysterious hotel caper. With over ten suspects, who could have committed this heinous crime? Welcome to Heritage High School’s Whodunnit.

Whodunnit, written by a local playwright, examines the actions taken in the Clybourne Arms Hotel anteroom for the 24 hours before Blanche Farthingale’s necklace is stolen. The hotel plays host to a catalogue of different suspicious characters, from charismatic Stanley L’Arson to Ms. Scarborough and Mr. Sycamore who are not who they say they are. Anybody could be a suspect, as the audience is told by a Greek chorus-esque secret society before action begins.

The show is unique in today’s ever-virtual world in that it was entirely filmed on stage at Heritage High School. The cast rehearsed online throughout the rehearsal process and then had access to Heritage’s auditorium for just a week to record. 

Despite these virtual rehearsals and the fact that a significant portion of the cast and crew had never been inside Heritage’s auditorium before filming, the actors executed precise blocking with immense grace. 

Scenes of controlled chaos particularly shined, with actors entering, exiting, and trading lines all while keeping to COVID-19 distancing requirements. Each actor also physically embodied their character’s traits, helping the audience distinguish between such a large cast over a rather short period of time.

The costumes department (Emma Saville, Amelie Allen, and Abby Edwards) also played a major role in defining characters, utilizing color to establish relationships, and changing a character’s costume to fit with their specific situation. 

Miranda’s (Emily Gruessing) dress was a frilly light pink, complementing the actress’s vocal choices to establish her age as a young girl. Telling off the young Miranda multiple times was Sadie Clybourne, played by Cordelia Din. Din perfectly mixed a professional demeanor, demanding stage presence, and not just a hint of franticness to create a sympathetic and hilarious character in Clybourne.

The large cast of maids (Erika Phillips, Kayla English, Amelie Allen, Shannon Mihelic, Erin Sadler, Lily Kilduff, Kira Saunders, Jaclyn Pisani, Christa Knight, and Samantha Balderrama) were a force to be reckoned with, both as a whole, and in their individual interactions. Each time multiple maids were on stage, they filled the space with a unifying energy. They also had a particular grasp on blocking, encompassing the large stage with ease. Yet, in any more personal moments they were each able to distinguish themselves as a character worthy of standing on her own, such as Phillips’ and English’s interactions with Stanley L’Arson (Tyler Cowher). 

Another character who proved time and again that she was more than what immediately came to eye, was Audrey Rochester played by Lili Williams. Williams held her own against Edward Farthingale (TJ D’Onofrio), in a memorable scene where Rochester revealed that she used to be engaged to Farthingale – Eddie, as she calls him. She wove a beautiful note of humor and bitterness into the fraught scene.

Underscoring each actor’s individual choices, and creating the world in which they operated, was the set department (Drew Crawford and Colin Jones). They chose furniture, and a backdrop that worked, along with costumes, to create the period setting and ensured cohesion between parts.

So, whodunnit? The audience may not know who stole Blanche Farthingale’s necklace, but they can be sure of who performed an incredible play: Heritage High School.

This Cappies review was written by Emma Barnes of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

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