In a home in the English countryside in 1932, extremely conservative politician Walter Pearce (played by John Brennan Hayes) is accidentally invited to a tryst with the mistress of the house, Sorel Bennett (Molly Barrett Schultz), a bored stage actress married to London playwright Edward Bennett (Joe Siefker).
But it turns out Mr. Bennett is also in the house, as well as his mad socialist friend, Eric (Greg Howard), and Sorel’s best friend, avant garde dancer Victoria (Veronique Duprey). The Bennett chauffeur, Jack (Eric Evans), happens to be from the same town as Pearce, as is mysterious woman Alice (Krysten Lyster), who might or might not be Pearce’s wife and shows up brandishing a gun. So, Pearce is now a lifeless body, and the maid, Bridget (Joan Rapkin), indulges her desire to play detective — but absolutely everyone is a suspect.
This is the plot of “Death by Design,” a recently penned comedy by American playwright Rob Urbinati, now playing at Epilogue Players in downtown Indy.
Schultz and Greenfield actor Siefker give the Bennetts a delightfully dysfunctional relationship that has them plotting each other’s demise one moment and literally dancing around the room the next. Hayes is pitch-perfect with his comic bluster at being a moral crusader in a house full of Bohemians.
Speaking of which, Duprey — an actual dancer — manages a hilarious routine that would have been mere overacting in less-practiced hands. Howard is humorously manic, especially when caught in a bit of hypocritical lust. Lyster is appropriately hysterical. Evans and Rapkin are charming as the help.
The tone overall reflects a British comic silliness that maintains its own rules of askew logic.
The main quibble I have with this otherwise good production, directed by Peg Arbuckle and Marsha Grant, is the cast’s difficulty in sustaining the necessary British accents.
Still, they make a great effort, and I found myself more wrapped up in the story and funny goings-on than listening for whether the vowels sounded right. And you really have to be open to this style of “humour.” Just accept the oddities and roll with it.