A failing romance, snarky servants, half-mad lords, an Egyptian curse, and scandalous murder all threaten to forever shutter the windows at Doomston Abbey unless something is done immediately. But first, a spot of tea…
The Prairie Center Arts Foundation's ninth installment of Mystery at the Theatre goes excessively British when it presents the musical-comedy-whodunit "Doomston Abbey" at the Schaumburg Prairie Center for the Arts on Friday, March 15 and Saturday March 16 at 8 pm.
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The Foundation's Mystery series began in 1997 as a fundraiser to raise money for programs at the Prairie Center. "We came across a pre-packaged theatrical mystery production, which got our creative juices flowing about doing this sort of on our own entirely in-house," says Foundation Executive Director Lucinda Flodin. "After all, we had access to a writer, a local cast of actors, set materials, costumes props, and of course the stage, so we decided to go for it." The one-time affair was an instant hit, calling for eight more original mysteries. Past mysteries have featured a variety of settings, including an old West saloon, a 1940's radio studio, a vaudeville house, and outer space.
For the Prairie Center's Rob Pileckis, (he's held his 'day job' there as its Production Supervisor since 1989), writing "Doomston Abbey" allows him to draw from his one of his biggest influences: British comedy. "I grew up watching Monty Python, Fawlty Towers and a lot of other shows that were imported from England, and I performed in British plays in high school, so I easily relate to that brand of comedy" says Pileckis. "We link their style to the dry wit of Noel Coward and Oscar Wilde, but there's a lot of broad gallows humor there as well. I hope to cover the whole gamut of what makes me, and hopefully, the audience, laugh."
The mystery's timing couldn't be better, taking its inspiration from the PBS-acquired program "Downton Abbey," now enjoying its acme as one of the most popular British programs to ever hit the states. And while Pileckis intends to spoof some of its characters and plot complications, being a 'Downton' groupie isn't required to enjoy the mystery. "The humor and story will appeal to fans and no-fans alike," adds Pileckis. The story also has fun with novelties of the time, such as crossword puzzles (then a new craze), King Tutankhamen, and Harry Houdini.
"Doomston Abbey" features a cast of area actors, some of whom have appeared in early mysteries. Featured (in alphabetical order) are Jilliane Ann Baumert of Roselle as the 'plain' Lady Edwina Carrington; Megan Betti of Palatine as the tempestuous Philomena Haggett; Mike Concialdi of Schaumburg as Cousin Larry Schmantz; Paige Ehlman of Mt. Prospect as the American flapper Zelda; Eleanor Ekovich of Schaumburg as ward of the estate Isabelle; Joshua Kiesel of Hanover Park as ward of the estate Samuel; David Lemrise of Buffalo Grove as the daft Lord Bertram Thornberry; Zach Lentino of Schaumburg as the stable boy Nigel; Jared Mason of Naperville as the Mummy; Leo Mueller of Schaumburg as the heir apparent Henry Carrington; Angela Panzarella of Wheeling as the nanny Mrs. Mackenzie; Johnny Pontarelli of Elk Grove Village as the mysterious Mr. Tamzir; Sarah Sapperstein of Chicago as the betrothed Lady Lenora Wilson; Melissa Scheele of Oak Park as the dowager Lady Carrington; and Carl Vachlin of Roselle as the butler Gibson. A singing cast of servants include Olivia Baumann, Jack Corkery, Alexander Lapinsky, Rene Netzer, Larry Netzer, and Laura Smith. Mary Spangler of Schaumburg also makes special guest appearance.
Audience members are invited to 'get into the act' by attending the shows dressed in 1920s fashion and posing for photos before the program.
Mystery goers can also purchase a ticket for a post-show reception at the Prairie Center, with coffee, cash bar, and desserts provided by Schaumburg restaurant Bahama Breeze. And patrons can take their chances on winning a number of raffle prizes at the show, including tours of Chicago's Driehaus Museum and the Cunio Mansion in Vernon Hills.
Tickets for "Doomston Abbey" cost $20. Admission to the post-show dessert reception is $10. Orders can be placed by calling the Prairie Center box office at 847-895-3600 or visiting prairiecenter.org. The Prairie Center for the Arts is located at 201 Schaumburg Ct, Schaumburg, IL.
Mystery at the Theatre is sponsored by the Prairie Center Arts Foundation.