Live performances and audiences return to the Players Guild of Dearborn theater Oct. 1 with playwright and director Brian Townsend’s original murder mystery comedy “Murder Comes to Uptight Abbey.”
Set a century ago in England, the story combines Downton Abbey and Agatha Christie to play Clue, after the body of Lord Horatio Uptight is found on a dark and stormy night with a large knife in his back.
The Uptight family and staff attempt to discover the murderer before the Dowager Duchess arrives for dinner, with a colorful coterie of conniving cousins, devoted butlers, suspicious maids and elderly eccentrics.
The cast includes Luke Adamkiewicz of Dearborn Heights as Bakerman, Kori Bielaniec of Westland as Lady Daphne Uptight, Madeleine Bien of Southfield as Mrs. Yews, Leslie Garber of Dearborn as Gladys Patticake, Ashley Gatesy of Westland as Fern Patticake, Alex Gojkov of Southfield as Lord Horatio Uptight, Adriana James of Lincoln Park as Honoria Uptight, John Lamb of Ann Arbor as Marcus Hugh Wainwright, Nick Marinello of Mt. Clemens as the Dowager Duchess Uptight, Kyle Phillips of Hazel Park as Nurse Agnes Dundlebunny, and Mark Walentowicz of Garden City as McDonald.
Townsend said that after being involved in a streaming show earlier this year, returning to live theater with pandemic precautions is the next step in the return to normalcy.
“It makes such a difference to be in person with the cast, instead of relying on Zoom to review movement, discuss character and run the show,” he said. “When those interactions – whether actor-to-actor, or actor-to-director – can be live instead of pixilated, it’s a great feeling.”
Townsend said that while wearing masks during rehearsal doesn’t seem unusual, given masking requirements elsewhere, the cast will welcome pocketing their masks during performances, which will let them see the full facial expressions of their fellow actors.
He said this is the fourth time he has brought “Uptight Abbey” to the stage, and each cast has embodied the characters differently and delivered the lines in unique ways.
“Through the years, there have been edits to the script, and this time is no different,” he said. “It has been fun to collaborate with the actors and find these elements while still paying homage to the show’s history.”
Townsend said that, as a playwright, it tickles him to hear the cast and crew laughing at a joke or comedic bit during rehearsal.
“They truly are working as a team to bring these ridiculous characters to life, and it’s invigorating,” he said.
Walentowicz, as part of the team, said it is challenging to keep a straight face while onstage with so many funny actors.
“It’s not often that you get to sink your teeth into material that is so genuinely funny and well-written,” he said. “It’s been a joy to be able to cut up a bit, and it’s a cool and unique opportunity to bring a show to life under the direction of the show’s actual author.”
James said it is amazing to be back onstage, especially in the crazy world of “Uptight Abbey.”
“It’s almost as if you went down the rabbit hole and got dropped off in a weird British world,” she said.
Lamb said he has had so much free time after work during the pandemic, it has been an adjustment to get used to having evening rehearsals again.
As a newcomer to the Guild, he said he is impressed by the cast’s professionalism and enthusiasm, and admits that it is challenging to hold back his own laughter while rehearsing a funny scene.
“I really hope audiences can sit back, relax and enjoy the show as much as we have, and can really appreciate the hard work and dedication that everyone involved in this production has put in for our community,” he said. “A show like this is a real breath of fresh air.”
Townsend said that with the stress of the pandemic, we are all due some laughter.
“Theatre creates a connection between us all, and there is something amazing about sitting with a group of people laughing, gasping, crying and applauding over what we’ve experienced together while watching a play,” he said. “We have spent so much time apart. How wonderful to be able to say, ‘Let’s see a play this weekend.’”
The show runs for two weekends, at 8 p.m. Oct. 1, 2, 8 and 9 and 2:30 p.m. Oct. 3 and 10 at the theater, 21730 Madison, Dearborn.
Tickets are only available prior to the show, online or by phone, and will not be sold at the door, to limit person-to-person contact. Tickets are $18, with a $2 processing fee. To order tickets, call 313-561-TKTS or go to playersguildofdearborn.org/tickets.
Attendees must show a vaccination card and photo identification at the door, or proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of the performance start time, or a negative COVID-19 antigen test taken within six hours of the performance start time.
Masks will be required for all attendees, and children 12 and under (who cannot be vaccinated) will not be permitted to attend performances.