Century Church Theatre has mysteries, surprises and laughs

May 25, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

The Game’s Afoot or Holmes for the Holidays is a murder mystery that has presented a wondrous challenge to the community theatre at Century Church Theatre in Hillsburgh.

Said director Jo Phenix, “It is a challenge because we have a small stage but we’ve learned to use the stage for panto which requires lots of scene changes so, we’ve learned tricks for changing scenery. For this challenge, our creative people are working really well.”

The set features original art  work by local artist and member of the group, Rhonda Hewitson.

While this theatre group generally produces comedy, this whodunit works well for its clever combination of  tension, mystery, a surprise ending and comedy – everything for a great evening’s entertainment.

The plot – rather thick: it is Broadway, December, 1936. Actor William Gillette, famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, after a victorious showing of one of his very long-running production of his Holmes play, invites the cast back to his castle in Connecticut for celebrations and party where, horrors!, one of the guests is stabbed to death. Taking on again his well-established role as the great detective, Gillette must work fast to find the culprit before another strike.

The ensuing play is a fine combination of danger and hilarity.

The creative team at Century Church Theatre has had fun with the gorgeous costumes for the ladies and the formal wear for the men suitable for 1936.  As there eight actors in the piece, there has been plenty to do for the costumes.

“We’ve even been introducing the men to cufflinks,” Ms.  Phenix was happy to boast. “Women rarely wear long slinky dresses now – it has been lovely to dress them up for this.”

The play was written by Ken Ludwig, bringing his work back to the theatre after a couple years,  Ms. Phenix having also directed their last production of his farce, The Fox on the Fairway. An American playwright, Mr. Ludwig has a love and respect for the tradition of theatre and models some of his plays on the great British farce.   

“It was such a good play and we had such fun,” Ms. Phenix said. “I was delighted to read the Game’s Afoot or Holmes for the Holidays and to find that it had even more appeal for me.”            

William Gillette was a real-life actor and a friend of Conan Doyle.

“He was famous actor of silent films. The more we learned about him, the more fascinating he became,” Ms. Phenix advised. “He wrote a play about Sherlock Holmes which ran on Broadway for 20 years, making him a wealthy man. [Ludwig’s] play, based on him, is set on the stage of the Palace theatre in New York and Gillette’s home in Connecticut. The chance to create two worlds of the dark 1890’s and the glamorous 1930’s was very appealing.”

This production features some familiar faces on the stage, Greg Allan, John Lefrbvre, Michelle Salmon; welcome to the newcomers to the guild: Patricia Ball, Rebecca Castillino, Lindsay Grisebach, and Chris Mackay. Stage manager is Thea award winning  Erin Montgomery.

Says Ms. Phenix, “With special effects, shocks and surprises … all in all, this play is an ideal vehicle for a community theatre like ours.”

Opening this Friday, May 26, the play runs over the two weekends to June 4. Friday and Saturday evenings are at 8:00 and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.

For tickets and information, you can call 519-855-4586 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. Visit the website at

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