October 24, 2020

ACT parodies vamp craze via murder

It was a night jam-packed with mayhem as All College Theatre (ACT) put on its original murder mystery production of “Death Comes at Midnight.” The show ran Dec. 3 and 4 in the Brower Student Center Food Court. With catering from Mama Flora’s Trattoria, the dinner and a show was an interactive experience with “Twilight” puns and excellent acting.

The food court was transformed into a bookstore eagerly anticipating the midnight release of the fourth book in the “Midnight” series. This was the first of many “Twilight” jokes. Eight lucky winners got to ask the author of the book, Sherry Dwyer, played hilariously by freshman history and secondary education double major Devin Dimmig, any question they wanted to about the series. Many prejudices were revealed here. But the innocent event went horribly wrong when Dwyer was murdered.

The first act of the show, while enjoyable, ran on too long. While the introduction and questions segment had the potential to be very funny, it dragged and some of the jokes were geared heavily toward “Twilight” readers.

The second act was more enjoyable than the first but was still lengthy. The famous detective Wendell Scherer, played by senior English major Steven Avigliano, tried to discover who killed Dwyer and the audience interaction question and answer session that accompanied this was occasionally funny, but also included a laundry list of questions and inside jokes. The ending was hysterical and included possible orgies, a male vampire not interested in his female fans and the funniest quip of the show by junior English major Justin Mancini: “I’m still not sure why nobody thought to call the police.”

If ACT had cut half of each act and left the ending exactly as it was, this show could have been great. As it was presented, however, it felt like there was so much potential not reached. But none of this was the fault of the actors.

Each actor completely embodied the role they’d been assigned, including the actors not actually participating in the stage action, but simply serving the food and roaming the floor, interacting with guests. This was a fun addition to the ambiance of the play.

Every actor on the stage was funny, but a few stood out. Junior women’s and gender studies major Liz So commanded attention as the bookstore’s owner and, after the final revelation, played a believable psychopathic murderer. Senior finance major Jeffrey Mondoro probably had the fewest lines in the play as the slightly slow bodyguard of Dwyer, but his stereotypical dumb he-man voice and blank expressions were spot on and definitely got the biggest laughs from the crowd.

Junior psychology major John Eldis played a great vamp bounty hunter, and apparently referenced last year’s murder mystery in Saturday night’s performance with his tale of how he got his eye patch.

Freshman biology major Chris Tippet had the hard task of playing the broody but irresistible vampire Dante Varney (he even looked a little like Robert Pattinson — no offense intended), but he pulled it off, even if his anger seemed a little forced at times.

It was Avigliano, however, that stole the show as Wendell. His pompous British accent and exaggerated movements (and flipping of his Doctor Who-esque trench coat) were perfect, and he, having to interact with the audience the most, thought well on his feet.

The show was enjoyable, even if long and slightly tedious at times, because the actors all took on their roles with gusto, and the plot was still very funny, if not completely played out.

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