Make us your home page
Instagram

Everyone is suspect in Stage West's production of 'The Butler Did It'

The whodunit The Butler Did It opens at Stage West Community Playhouse in Spring Hill on Thursday. Stephanie Cooper, left, is cast as Victoria, John Pridgen as Aldo and Cheryl Roberts as Angela.

Courtesy of Carol Ballard

The whodunit The Butler Did It opens at Stage West Community Playhouse in Spring Hill on Thursday. Stephanie Cooper, left, is cast as Victoria, John Pridgen as Aldo and Cheryl Roberts as Angela.

SPRING HILL — If you're thinking of writing a play, you may want to avoid the title The Butler Did It. There are at least a half-dozen existing plays by that name in circulation, starting in the early 1900s, and yours would be just one more.

The phrase has been around so long, in fact, that it's become a cliche and is always good for a laugh. (One imaginative playwright named his play A Butler Did It, thus vaulting his play to the top of the alphabetical list of Butler-Did-It shows.)

To be clear, The Butler Did It that opens Thursday at the Forum at Stage West Community Playhouse is the 1981 version by the Marks brothers, Walter and Peter, and it has mostly been well received across the country at professional and amateur theaters alike, if reviews and patron comments are to be trusted.

Set in 1983 New York City, it's a play within a play, as ambitious playwright/director Anthony Lefcourt (Dalton Benson, HAMI Award as Saunders in Lend Me a Tenor) gathers his cast to rehearse his latest creation. His play is a classic whodunit. But to keep his actors in character, Lefcourt refuses to tell them who will be the murder victim and who will be the murderer. That way, the actors will be honestly horrified when they discover the identities of both. Or, at least in Lefcourt's vivid imagination, they will be. And, who knows? Something terrifying may actually happen, giving Lefcourt's struggling play the publicity he desperately needs.

The confusion increases because three of the central characters in the play-within-the-play are all named Butler, assuring a good chance that a Butler did, indeed, do it.

There are Raymond Butler (Ernie Rowland, HAMI Award as Norman in On Golden Pond), a fading actor named Robert who once played a doctor on TV; Angela Butler (Cheryl Roberts, HAMI as Simone in A Bedfull of Foreigners), an aging actor named Natalie who is fighting her wrinkles and gray hair; their "play" daughter Victoria Butler (Stephanie Cooper, HAMI Award as Evelyn in Ragtime), an eager (and sometimes annoying) aspiring actor whose real name is Claudia; Aldo (John Pridgen, stage debut), the Butlers' butler, whose real name is Michael; and Detective Mumford (Sam Petricone, HAMI Award as Charlie in On Golden Pond), real name Sam, who, though he isn't named Butler or isn't even playing a butler, may be the perpetrator.

Hey, in a whodunit, everyone is suspect. (Even the murder weapon has a Butler connection — a hardcover copy of Samuel Butler's The Way of All Flesh.)

Theater insiders and aficionados may get a special kick out of all the backstage lingo, lessons and shenanigans sprinkled throughout the play. It's all designed to keep the audience guessing, right to the end.

>>IF YOU GO

Play within a play

The Butler Did It runs Thursday to Nov. 13 and Nov. 18-20 at the Forum at Stage West Community Playhouse, 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill. Shows are at 7:30 p.m., except Sundays and the second Saturday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20, reserved seating. Call (352) 683-5113.

Everyone is suspect in Stage West's production of 'The Butler Did It' 11/01/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 2, 2016 5:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Glen Campbell's wife Kim discusses challenges, guilt caregivers of Alzheimer's patients, others face

    Life Times

    If there's one thing Kim Campbell would change about caregiving for Alzheimer's patients, it's the attitude so many of us have toward transferring a loved one from home to a long-term care facility. According to Campbell, it's often the most kind, loving decision you can make. It's not a sign of failure, but one of …

    Kim Campbell, wife of country music legend Glen Campbell, is acknowledged by those attending the free event where she shared the story of her personal journey with Alzheimer???‚??„?s disease and the struggles she faced caring for her husband on Friday (5/26/17) at the Suncoast Hospice's Empath Health Service Center in Clearwater. Empath Choices for Care, a member of Empath Health, and Arden Courts Memory Care hosted the free event where Kim shared her story to help others understand the early stages, how the disease changes lives, the challenges families face and the role of caregiver.
  2. What happened when I took my dad to a Pitbull concert

    Music & Concerts

    TAMPA — "So, you know how you like Pitbull?" I asked my dad. "We can see him."

    Selfie of Divya Kumar and Anand Kumar at Pitbull/Enrique Iglesias concert.
  3. Tampa City Council votes to accept travel invitation from Cuban ambassador

    Blogs

    The invitation came to Tampa City Council chairwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin in a June 9 letter from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.

    The Tampa City Council voted 6-0, with Frank Reddick out of the room, to respond to a travel invitation from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.
  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 25

    Events

    St. Pete Pride Festival: The daytime festival covers Central Avenue's Grand Central District with more than 350 vendors, multiple stages, live music, art and food. 9 a.m., Grand Central District, 2429 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Free. (727) 342-0084.

    Kristen Whalen poses for a photo before the start of the St. Pete Pride Parade in St. Petersburg last year. It's that time of year again, so check with us for your planning purposes. [LUIS SANTANA  |   Times (2016)]
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 24

    Events

    St. Pete Pride Block Party and Night Parade: St. Pete Pride's popular parade moves to downtown St. Petersburg's scenic waterfront. The block party brings DJs, food and drinks starting at 2 p.m. The parade steps off at Fifth Ave NE and Bayshore at 7 p.m. with fireworks at 9:45 p.m. 2 p.m., North Straub Park, Fifth …

    Thousands line the streets of Central Ave. during the St. Pete Pride Parade in St. Petersburg.  [Saturday, June 25, 2016] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]