Bickford Theatre, nestled in the heart of the Morris Museum, continues its season with the darkly comic “Ravenscroft” by Don Nigro. Part of a series of plays that involve main character Inspector Ruffing, this outing is Monty Python meets Twilight Zone–it’s full of chills, thrills and derring-do in word play that will have you listening intently to make sure you’ve not missed anything.
It is 1905 in the English countryside, and Inspector Ruffing (Clark Carmichael) has been called in to investigate what is either a tragic accident, or perhaps a murder, at Ravenscroft. The young, and devilishly handsome, handyman Patrick Roarke has taken a swan dive down the stairs, shuffling off this mortal coil. When Ruffing arrives at the country estate, he finds five women–all of them potentially capable of mayhem–and a host of questions where he had hoped to find answers.
Mrs. Ravenscroft (Molly Garner) is an attractive, perhaps merry, widow, who has plenty of ideas and a lightning wit. She’s fast on her feet, and perhaps elsewhere as well. Her daughter Gillian (Erin Farrah) is a young woman, who is a bit batty in the belfry, but whether that’s the expression of fin de siècle teenage angst or something darker is yet to be seen. Her governess, Marcy (Katrina Klein), was hand selected by Mr. Ravenscroft, before his death, to guide his daughter, as well as tutor her in four languages, and more, and she has a skeleton or two in her closet. To what lengths will she go to protect herself and her young charge?
Chamber maid Dolly (Jessica Sroczynski) seems continually to have the vapors, though the sharpest will know why in the first act. The doughty Mrs. French (Gloria Lamoureux) has a trick or two up her own sleeve, as well as some surprising secrets of her own. Mrs. French is the cook and she is indomitable, and cut from the same cloth as Mrs. Ravenscroft, as both are quick on their feet and perhaps off them.
The set consists of classic furniture and empty frames, the one over the sofa looking like a squared-off expression of surprise. The lines come quickly and furiously, much like a Gilbert and Sullivan patter song, including some excellent quotes—“What NEVER? Hardly ever”—and you’ll want to see the show more than once, as there will surely be bits and phrases you miss the first time through. When not active, the actors sit off stage, visible and still. This adds to the haunted sense of the “house,” where eyes could truly be watching you through the eyes of family portraits.
This ensemble cast is clearly having fun and you will too. There is the sense of melodrama with some new world twists that may bring to mind New Jersey Governor Edward Hyde. Take a jaunt with a haunt whose corpus is corporeal and enjoy the talents of these tremendous actors.
“Ravenscroft” is a lovely dark Valentine, so be sure to see it before it ends on February 12. As the Bickford Theatre resides inside the Morris Museum, plan to spend a day, or return for a Museum visit. Get tickets now for a superbly planned season at http://www.morrismuseum.org/main-stage-performances/