Any creative way that local companies find to bring us original theater feels like a lifeline these days, and We Happy Few’s genteel caper, Loveday Brooke in ‘The Mystery of the Drawn Daggers’, is no exception.
Performed in the style of an old-fashioned radio play, the 45-minute mystery puts us in the hands of Loveday Brooke (Debora Crabbe), a no-nonsense “lady detective” (her gender inspires brief stuttering from one incredulous character, but is ultimately accepted) who has taken on what amounts to intrigue in her quiet British community (hey, it’s better than the case she almost snagged, involving a missing parrot): the Rev. Hawke (Eric Messner) is the recipient of a mysterious, anonymous letter with a picture of a menacing dagger on it.
When a second postcard arrives with two daggers pictured, Brooke begins to get to know the people surrounding the Rev. to figure out who might be connected to the missives. Does it have something to do with his nephew, Jack (Alex Turner), who spends a little too much time gambling? Or are there ties to the family’s new ward, Alice (Gabby Wolfe), who recently arrived from China?
Brooke makes pretty fast work of the mystery, and the audience gets to play along as well, opening four different envelopes bearing evidence (a clues packet is sent to each ticket buyer) as the story progresses. We Happy Few has added a few additional touches to keep things atmospheric: a copy of the local paper, even a cup of tea that listeners are encouraged to brew as they mull over clues. The evidence largely is more scene-setting than anything else (I was expecting more of a tangible puzzle along the likes of an Escape Room or something), but they do help with setting a scene in a situation where there’s no real set to contend with.
Bearing crisp accents and the heightened delivery one might expect from a radio play, each performer in We Happy Few commits fully to the performance; particularly enjoyable is the banter between the efficient Brooke and her stodgier client. The hijinks all wrap up rather neatly, even romantically.
For the Netflix-weary and stir crazy among us, experiments like the one We Happy Few is doing won’t quite reproduce the magic of live theater. But in the meantime, it’s nice to have a cozy way to embrace the talents of our local community from the couch.
Loveday Brooke in ‘The Mystery of the Drawn Daggers’
$28 (includes the mailed clues package)
45 minutes, plus time spent to mull over clues.
Click to listen
Loveday Brooke in ‘The Mystery of the Drawn Daggers’ recorded at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop. Directed and adapted from the Catherine Louisa Pirkis short story by Kerry McGee. With Debora Crabbe, Josh Adams, Eric Messner, Paige O’Malley, Tosin Olufolabi, Emilia Pazniokas, Robert Pike, Jon Reynolds, Alex Turner, and Gabby Wolfe. Sound Design: Tosin Olufolabi and Robert Pike. Production Manager: Sam Reilly. Original Music: Meg Lowey. Dramaturgy: Keith Hock. Graphic Design: Stefany Pesta. Dialect Coach: Zachary Campion . Produced by We Happy Few . Reviewed by Missy Frederick.