Make us your home page

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.


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

  1. Riverview 14 GDX kicks off summer season with sneak peak event


    RIVERVIEW — Deresa Mayes of Tampa loves nothing more than a day at the beach.

  2. Recipe for mini Zucchini Quiche perfect for a picnic


    You'd think quiche would be a summer picnic staple. In practice, the beloved cheese pies are too darn messy. Cutting one into slices while you're sitting at the beach can be tricky. And if you figure, "Aha! I'll slice it up ahead of time," you discover there's no easy way to transport the individual wedges. Finally, …

    Picnic Size Southwestern Zucchini Quiches can be topped with salsa.
  3. We Tried That: Working on a food truck for a day


    What we tried: It seems like everyone and their mother wants to open a food truck.

    Carlynn Crosby prepares food at the Empamamas food truck in the Cigar City Brewing parking lot in Tampa this month. For a variety of reasons, food trucking is not for the faint of heart.
  4. Hernando Events for May 26-June 1



    26 Friday

    Free Zika training: Presented by the Hernando Computer Club, the training is for those who wish to assist in the effort to find a cure for the Zika virus. Club members are volunteers for World Community Grid and are donating their devices' spare computing power to …

  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for May 24


    Damien Escobar: The acclaimed hip-hop violinist who has played for presidents tours in support of the album Boundless. 7:30 p.m., Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater. $35-$45. (727) 791-7400.

    HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 03:  Recording artist Damien Escobar performs onstage during the BET Presents Super Bowl Gospel Celebration at Lakewood Church on February 3, 2017 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for BET)