Any resemblance between GreenMan Theatre Troupe’s annual dinner-theater fundraiser and a popular British TV program is purely intentional.
“Doubtful Abbey: Murder and Mayhem at Fussworthy Manor” is the latest murder mystery created by “Downton Abbey” fan Carolyn Thomas-Davidoff of Western Springs, who has authored or co-authored a half-dozen interactive mysteries for the company. She also directs this one.
“Doubtful Abbey” opens on Friday, Feb. 21 for five performances at Angelo’s Ristorante in Elmhurst.
Thomas-Davidoff’s latest creation takes place during World War II at a gathering at a British estate. “They’re out in the country because of the Blitz happening in London,” the author related. “They’re throwing a surprise birthday party for the Dowager Duchess.”
That’s the title taken on by Lady Dolores Fussworthy when she was informed that her husband had died in the war. When she learned he was still alive, Lady Dolores kept the title because she liked it.
Audience members get into the action as invited guests to the birthday celebration. The actors play some of the wackier partiers.
“Lena Fussworthy is blind as a bat without her glasses and the Dowager Duchess makes fun of how ugly her glasses are so she’s always taking them off because she’d like her mother-in-law’s approval,” Thomas-Davidoff said. “At one point, she’s handling one of the audience members, thinking it’s her husband.”
In addition to their son, the Fussworthys have three daughters. Romance is in the air for all of them.
Other characters in this 20-person cast include producer Tony Broadstreet and Hollywood starlet Scrumptious Da Jour, who are hoping to wrestle some funds out of Lord Fussworthy so they can produce a West End musical.
“A storm comes up and they’re snowed in, and so they decide to hold auditions there,” Thomas-Davidoff said. “That’s how we explain why people are singing songs.” Among the seven numbers performed are “White Cliffs of Dover” and “Dream a Little Dream of Me.”
Actor Shazad Mehta plays Dr. Dre Ami in his ninth murder mystery with the company. “He’s a French doctor and he’s got a little bit of a secret as to why he’s in England,” Mehta said. “He’s come there also to shadow his mentor who is the family doctor for the Fussworthy family.”
Mehta’s character is a “ladies’ man,” the actor revealed. “His nickname is actually Dr. Dreamy. He’s a smart guy but sometimes his interest in the ladies can get him into trouble.”
Women in the audience are cautioned to watch out for this flirtatious guy.
This is the first GreenMan murder mystery for Kitty Mortland, who plays Pippa Fussworthy, the eldest daughter and twin to Lena’s husband Philip. Mortland auditioned because “I’m a big fan of ‘Downton Abbey,’” she said. Also, she figured it would give her a chance to try out her British accent, “which I’ve been working on just for fun.”
Mortland, who earned a theater degree at Southern Illinois University, described Pippa as “hoping for an identity beyond Philip’s twin. She is anxious to get married because she is of that age and what else was she supposed to do? But she does have a mind of her own and she is drawn to the intelligent men in the show.”
Before the birthday party ends, there will be a jewelry heist and a murder — plus a chance for the audience members to play detective and figure out whodunit.