Fundamentally, of course, audience involvement ought never to be passive. This show goes further, inviting patrons to vote on their choice of the eponymous hero's killer to answer the perennial question of its genre: Whodunit?
|Edwin Drood (Cynthia Collins) is the center of attention from a spectrum of acquaintances.|
In the Actors Theatre of Indiana production, which opened over the weekend, the outsized outreach of the show was unstinting. Seen Sunday under DJ Salisbury's direction, the cast mingles with and teases the audience before a note is sounded or a scripted word is spoken. And the uninterrupted span of the two-hour show affords no let-up.
From there, Dickens' story, whose authoritative ending will never be known because the author died before finishing it, is treated as riotous entertainment in which dark deeds are mainly a way of highlighting the canvas' bright colors. A five-piece band at the rear of the stage, under the direction of Keith Potts, weaves a tight spell around the songs, which vary from poignant, spicy or caricaturish solos to ensemble rave-ups.
|Plaintive contrast: Rosa Bud listens to Puffer's regretful "The Garden Path to Hell."|
The high-spirited production numbers, keyed to such soloists as Paul Collier Hansen as the clerk Bazzard ("Never the Luck") and T.J. Lancaster's riveting Chairman of the troupe ("Off to the Races") were exemplary blends of individual and collective energy. The design team set a high standard of sheer fabulousness, with Stephen Hollenbeck's costumes suiting all the characters dramatically as well as for the movement required of the actors playing them.
One wonders if the complete-ballot submitters minded the mandated sing-along, the music-hall-style
|Voice lesson: Rosa Bud submits with trepidation to Jasper's direction.|
Bountiful good cheer and flirtatious bounce were contributed by Karaline Feller as Flo. In an audience applause vote, she was elected to dance after a romantic fashion with co-winner John Vessels as the loopy, gap-toothed stonemason and crypt expert, Durdles. No wonder — these were a pair of lovable rogues.
To add a hard-to-place note of exotic caricature, the siblings Neville and Helena Landless were tricked out in a flamboyant repertoire of gestures, poses, attitudes, and facial expressions, played with special attention to comic detail by Logan Moore and Jaddy Ciucci.
The unctuous cleric Crisparkle was loaded with superficial good will and a self-serving touch of piety in Darrin Murrell's performance. Maybe my generally jaundiced view of clergy accounted for my vote for him as the prime suspect in Drood's apparent murder.
For an unclouded picture of innocence, complete with golden locks and almost angelic attire, there could hardly have been a more apt performance than Harli Cooper's as Rosa Bud, Edwin's fiancee up until the couple agrees to break off the engagement in secret.
Dickens is a literary giant particularly known for both an unparalleled sense of fun and heartfelt insight into life's coincidences and mysteries. So his interrupted swan song lends itself to a romp of the sort of well-coordinated exuberance that it enjoys in this production.