A VERY VICTORIAN MURDER
I’ve loved the board game Clue ever since I was a child. When I played it, I always imagined myself as Professor Plum (usually) moving through the darkened rooms and secret passageways of Boddy Mansion, trying to solve a murder. When I first came to work at the Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion in 2008, you can imagine my joy at being hired to write and direct an interactive murder mystery where the audience actually did get to move through a mansion, collecting clues and meeting suspects.
The annual murder mystery at the Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion has become a favorite program, people of all ages love playing detective so much that the event sells out completely every year. Hundreds of people walk through the Mansion’s doors that perhaps never would have otherwise, and they are usually captivated (as I was) at the house’s beauty and history. They usually come back for a tour, and start attending our other Victorian Theatre events.
Those of us that work at the Mansion always look forward to the mystery. Our technical director Jay Efran has a seemingly infinite library of special effects and magic up his sleeve to enhance the performance, and there are many actors who perform in the murder mystery every year in wildly different roles. One thing that I’m tremendously proud of is that each mystery is related to a period of Victorian history, very often local history. We’ve done mysteries about Charlotte Cardeza, a Titanic survivor who lived in Germantown, the beginnings of the Civil War, and the Lizzie Borden case, among others.
When we decided to do a murder mystery centered around Charles Dickens this year, I decided I wanted to take a step back from writing and directing the show. The perfect man to write this mystery was Edward G. Pettit, an incredible Victorian scholar also known as the Philly Poe Guy and the city’s Dickens Ambassador. Ed has written a hugely entertaining script called Twisted: A Dickensian Mystery. The basic premise is that Oliver Twist, now all grown up with an inheritance, is bumped off by one of Dickens’ other immortal characters, and the audience has to deduce who killed him, with what weapon, in what room. Was it the mad Miss Havisham, the untrustworthy Fagin, or even Tiny Tim?
After five years of being behind the scenes, I decided I wanted to act in the mystery this year. I filled in for one of the actors for one day last year, and had an incredibly fun time. You get to perform for a large amount of people in small groups throughout the evening, and each time it’s a little different, tailored to the people in the room. I’ll be playing Charles Dickens himself, a role I’m sharing with Ed Pettit (who looks like he could actually be Dickens).
The cast, directed by Jay Efran, is having a wonderful time diving into Dickens’ rich characters, and of course I can’t reveal who killed Oliver Twist. You’ll have to buy a ticket and pay a visit to the Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion to find out.