When in doubt, do what the late American playwright Tim Kelly did. Say the butler did it.
His comedy whodunit The Butler Did It opens The Lakeshore Players 48th season, Thursday.
“The Butler Did It is the very first play I worked on,” director Liz Truchanowicz said. “I was in Grade 9 and I was the prompter. The boy I had a crush on was in it. I thought he was a wonderful actor, of course.
“I still have the old script at home. As soon as I saw it on the list of (Lakeshore Players) plays for this season, I jumped at it. It’s a crazy little whodunit.”
The Butler Did It is set in a sumptuous manor off the coast of San Francisco. It’s a dark and stormy night and a dinner party is taking place, attended by mystery writers dressed up like the detectives from their famed mystery series. A murder takes place and they must solve the mystery without the help of a real detective.
“Nobody knows who did it until the very end,” Truchanowicz said. “Oh, and there isn’t a butler in the play.”
Kelly wrote over 300 plays before his sudden death following a brain hemorrhage in 1998. He wrote three “Butler” plays, following up on the original with The Butler Did It, Again and The Butler Did It, Singing.
Kelly rooted his “Butler” comedy in spoofs of famous characters from popular mystery series, the majority of them British.
In the Butler Did It, for example, you have Miss Maple (played by Catherine Pycock) based on Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple character, Chandler Marlowe (Steve Gillam) based on the Philip Marlowe character from the Raymond Chandler novels and Louie Fan (Irwin Shlafman) inspired by the Charlie Chan character created by Earl Derr Biggers.
“He played on the (detective characters’) least attractive qualities,” Truchanowicz said with a laugh.
Truchanowicz, a Toronto native, completed both an archeology degree and a theatre degree at McGill University before moving on to complete her masters in fine arts/directing at the University of Ottawa.
She worked for a while as an archeologist in Toronto but is now a full-time Montrealer and theatre professional, coordinating workshops for the Quebec Drama Federation, heading one of the programs at the Magnetic North Theatre Festival in Ottawa and recently directing the play Dreaming in Autism at the Montreal Fringe.
Truchanowicz has no trouble seeing the link between her two professions.
“Ultimately, in both cases, you are studying human behaviour,” she said.
Making humans laugh can be tough, timing is everything, so Truchanowicz is looking forward to her cast of amateur and semi-professional actors getting feedback from the audience.
“The audience laughter will help shape the performance,” Truchanowicz said.
The Lakeshore Players present The Butler Did It at the Louise Chalmers Theatre at John Rennie High School, 501 Blvd. St. Jean in Pointe Claire, Thurs., Fri., and Sat. and Nov. 7-10 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 10 at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $24 for adults and $20 for students and seniors. Balcony tickets cost $16. For reservations, call 514-631-8718. For info, visit www.lakeshoreplayersdorval.com.