MLT delivers a great mix of mystery and comedy

Markham Little Theatre returns to the Flato Markham Theatre stage for the first time this season with The Game’s Afoot.  Equal parts murder mystery and comedy, the play, written by award-winning playwright Ken Ludwig, runs from November 15 to 18 at 8pm.

“There is nothing like a good murder mystery. Says the show’s director, Kerry Harman. “We have period costumes, a fabulous set with hidden goodies, lighting, sound and weapons. We think you’ll love it.” 

The play features a fictionalised version of legendary American stage actor, William Gillette. Gillette became a star on Broadway in the late 1800s after he persuaded Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to let him adapt Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes for the stage. Gillette then took the fortune he earned and built a castle in Connecticut that was apparently full of devices from Sherlock Holmes stories like rotating walls, two-way mirrors and secret passages.

In The Games Afoot, a retired Gillette has invited former castmates and a surprise guest to this same castle for the Christmas holiday. The guests banter in quotes from favourite plays as secret behind-the-scenes drama is revealed, as you might imagine from a room full of ageing and nostalgic actors, until a murder turns the party to chaos.
“This show has it all,” says Stage Manager Sarah MacDonald. “It’s a spoof and the cast and crew are having a wonderful time bringing it to life.”

The cast is a mix of MLT mainstays and folks new to the company. Gillette is played by Imre Szabo with his guests being portrayed by an ensemble that features John Fetherston, Noah Bicknell,  Michèle Browne, Shelagh Carlini, Nicky Marsh, and Katarina Matthiessen. The cast is rounded out by Catherine Hughes as the inspector who tries to make sense of the whole thing.

“Rehearsals are going very well,” says Harman.  We spent the first few weeks working on characters; now we’re onto the action. Just come prepared to laugh and enjoy.”

The play is full of twists and turns, thrills, and more than a little farce. Perhaps the largest challenge for the creative team, however, is the setting of a castle in the 1930s.

“Clothing and set design are key,” says Harmon. “This is a big show to produce, and we want it to reflect the ostentatious glory of Gillette’s mansion. The set will feature some Art Deco pieces, and the team is already sourcing props.”

In addition to Harman and MacDonald, the production team features Phil Mitchell and Keith Pybus (with help from René Vriends) collaborating on set design; Maria Cerone designing costumes; an ambitious sound Design by Annie Clark; Lighting Design by John Sellens; and Carl Gambacort and Steve Birtles on props.

“The show will be big and beautiful,” says Harman.

“We have a lot of fun with plays like this one,” adds MacDonald. “Sound effects, beautiful costumes, lighting effects, a great set, and fantastic actors – it’s going to be an exciting show.”

With 55 years of shows under Markham Little Theatre’s collective belt, these seem like predictions you can trust.

Founded in 1967, with its first production performed at the local High School, MLT is a volunteer army of Theatre creators almost unmatched in Ontario. The group has seen Markham through half a century of changes and remained a constant. Today, with a headquarters at the Markham Museum and as regular tenants of the Flato Markham Theatre, they continue to set the standard for local arts in Markham.

“This play will bring you the best of MLT,” says Harman. “What a fantastic way to spend an evening.”

The Game’s Afoot will be presented at Flato Markham Theatre from November 15 to 18.
All shows begin at 8 p.m., except the 18th at 2 p.m., with ticket prices starting at $25.

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Photo: The cast of The Game’s Afoot.

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