‘The Unexpected Guest’ at Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre by Julia L. Exline

FIVE STARS 82x15 (1)
The Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre presents famed crime writer Agatha Christie’s The Unexpected Guest, a thrilling murder mystery directed by Jeffrey Davis. Filled with surprising plot twists, this “whodunit,” paired with the unique and friendly atmosphere of The Lazy Susan, makes for a wonderful evening out!

Mrs. Warwick (Amy Wolf) and Michael Starkwedder (Casey Fero). Photo by James Cullum.

Mrs. Warwick (Amy Wolf) and Michael Starkwedder (Casey Fero). Photo by James Cullum.

Before the show begins, a buffet-style dinner and cocktails set the evening off right. The buffet has an abundance of home-style choices (try the delicious chicken-pot-pie), a wide variety of salads, and my personal favorite, the bread pudding! The servers (who are also cast and crew members of the play!) are always warm and accommodating, and the location itself has an overall mix-and-match antique vibe to it, providing conversation points at every turn. Of all the venues I visit, Lazy Susan is definitely the most distinctive, and interesting!

Set in South Wales during the 1950s, a grand study and sitting room depict a refined and wealthy household. Polished wooden bookcase sit behind an elegant desk, and satiny curtains frame large French windows. A minibar, a couple suits of armor, and framed artwork complete the chic setting. Technical staff Jeanne and Jesse Forbes keeps the stage well-lit and the cast loud and clear, as well as provide sound effects such as telephone rings, as well as the stuttering of a car engine and screech of tires. Costumes prove just as posh as the setting and era-appropriate, including white collared shirts, vests and ties, and a variety of pleated dresses and pearls. However, no matter how sophisticated the surroundings, an ugly situation (and secret) lurks…

On a particularly foggy evening, Michael Starkwedder (the always delightful Casey Fero) runs his car into a ditch and seeks out help at the isolated home of Richard Warwick. His knocks unanswered, Starkwedder lets himself in…only to find Mr. Warwick shot dead in his chair, with his wife Laura (Amy Wolf) standing nearby…holding a gun! After a shaky and somewhat forced confession, a stunned Laura asks Starkwedder to call the police, who instead follows his curiosity and asks her questions, discovering that her murdered husband was an allover terrible man who loved to shoot as a hobby. Taken by her beauty and persuaded by her story, he decides to help her re-stage the murder and place the blame on a known enemy of Mr. Warwick’s. They awaken the other inhabitants of the house, including Mr. Warwick’s Mother (Tricia Jarrell), his mentally unstable brother Jan (Giorgio Mazzarelli), the maid Miss Bennett (Heather Harris), and valet Henry Angell (Carl Bowman at my performance).A friend of Mr. Warwick Julian Farrar (Benjamin Jablonowski) arrives on scene and brings himself into the mix as well. When Sergeant Cadwallader (George Rouse) and Inspector Thomas (Lyle Blake Smythers) arrive on the scene, they discover that motives abound amongst the party, and as the investigation continues, the answer becomes more and more unclear. Who really killed Mr. Warwick?

Blackmail, treachery, and shocking reveals keep the plot moving and the audience guessing, down to the very last minute!

The cast is a talented one, and work well together. George Rouse and Lyle Blake Smythers make a particularly enjoyable pair as the whimsical and playful sergeant versus the stringent inspector, but this play belongs to Giorgio Mazzarelli, whose humorous, sad, and somewhat frightening portrayal of a simpleminded and troubled soul is a near-perfect performance. Sweetly childlike, fearfully excitable, and unflinchingly honest, this is a character who steals the spotlight.

Michael Starkwedder (Casey Fero) happens upon the body of Richard Warwick. Photo by James Cullum.

Michael Starkwedder (Casey Fero) happens upon the body of Richard Warwick. Photo by James Cullum.

I always have a great time when I visit The Lazy Susan, and this time was no exception. Great food, a warm atmosphere, and quality entertainment…what more could you want for a date night?

This month, treat your valentine to a night out at The Lazy Susan!

Running Time: Approximately two and a half hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

The Unexpected Guest plays through March 31, 2013 at Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre – 10712 Richmond Highway, in Lorton, VA. For reservations, call (703) 550-7384.

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