'Death by Design' delivers deadly wit

Jack the chauffeur ( Bobby DiPasquale) greets Alice the mysterious stranger (Kelly Martel) while Eric the radical socialist (Manuel Duran) looks on. PHOTO BY MARY RATH

Rob Urbinati’s "Death by Design" opens on the Wimberley Players stage on Feb. 9 and runs through March 4.

Murder, mayhem and deadly wit in an English country manor sets the stage for this fatally funny farce. Laced with puns, pratfalls and one-liners so sharp they could slice an artery, it should be called Death by Laughter.

Meet Edward Bennett, a playwright, and his actress wife, Sorel. They’ve just had a disastrous opening night and they’ve bolted London to escape the slings and arrows of the critics. Hoping to hunker down in their country digs, their peace is shattered by the arrival of one unexpected guest after another. A stodgy politician, a rabid socialist, a myopic starlet and a screwball dancer all show up, each harboring a long-held secret. When one of them is murdered, the manor’s maid must get to the bottom of it all.

Intentionally written in the Noël Coward style, Urbinati expertly melds Coward’s over-the-top characters, comic repartee and sharp social commentary with Agatha Christie’s element: a country estate filled with mysterious guests. The result is a smart, extremely entertaining play that lobs a healthy dose of snark at both archetypes of the British class system and the weird ways of the theater.

The role of Bridgit is played by Celeste Coburn, a Wimberley Players veteran seen most recently in "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike." Edward Bennett is played by Bill Claussen, another veteran Wimberley Players actor recently cast in "Lost in Yonkers." Jack is played by Bobby DiPasquale, a Wimberley Players alum of "Lend Me a Tenor." Newcomers to the Wimberley Players stage include Ashleigh Pedersen, who plays the role of Sorel Bennett; Craig Higdon, who plays Walter Pearce; Manual Duran, who plays Eric; Emma Lee Brian, who plays Victoria Van Roth; and Kelly Martel, who plays Alice.

Directed by Laura Haygood. Executive Producer is Adam Witko. Producer is Robin Wood. Death by Design is produced, by special arrangement, by Samuel French, Inc.

Forewarning, there are stage guns shot in the production of this play and the intended audience is 14 years old and up.

"Death by Design" will run from Feb. 9 through March 4. The Friday and Saturday showings are at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday showings are at 2:30 p.m. Reserved Seating is $22 and student tickets are $18 with ID. Tickets are available online at www.wimberleyplayers.org or by calling 512-847-0575. The Wimberley Playhouse is located on 450 Old Kyle Road.

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