Daniel Davey Reviews

Theatre Review: ‘Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime’ at Aurora Players

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Funny – isn’t it just like the noble class to engage in criminal behavior in order to improve their own bored condition, and assume they can get away with it?   What type of crime they undertake doesn’t seem to matter. A victim seems somewhat necessary. But more than that there needs to be a beneficiary. Because what’s the point otherwise?  And the planning, well, surely the educated and well to do would have that covered.

. . . an evening well spent. . .

“Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime,” — Aurora Players’ latest production at the Historic Roycroft Pavilion – is murder.   Being of noble class and none-too-bright, Lord Arthur is ill-suited for the crime, but just privileged, hapless, and in love enough to assume he can follow through and needs to pull it off.   

Arthur (Christopher Jackson) needs to indulge his crime after he reluctantly has his palm read, coerced by his fiancée’s mother, Lady Julia Merton.  She wants to check on his past, present, and future to determine whether he will be a suitable husband for her daughter Sybil (Mia LaMarco).

Luckily though, the renowned palm reader, Mr. Podgers gives Arthur a general thumbs up, telling Lady Julia and Sybil that he will lead a fine and generally happy existence in marriage.  Arthur senses there’s more to it, and in private Podgers tells him he has seen that Arthur is destined to commit a murder — the only hump in his otherwise blissful future with Sybil. Arthur determines he needs to get the crime out of the way before the marriage, and the crime is set in motion .  

With Oscar Wilde’s story at its core, Constance Cox’s play is ripe with laughs, wit, class commentary, and manslaughter built into the script.  While most of Lord Arthur’s circle – those who are privy to his murderous task – are willing and enthusiastic cohorts, the skeptical opposition to his hapless task is Lady Merton, played by Jessica Rasp, who steadily and dryly delivers her criticism of Arthur and the less than noble pursuits of society with all the motivation that you’d expect of a protective mother of the bride-to-be.  Rasp has a presence on stage that delivers, convincingly played against the murderous and hapless undertakings of the characters central to the crime.

But make no mistake those murderous characters hold their own as well.  Most notably the anarchist, Herr Winkelkopf, played by a talented Finnegan Lasch.  His Winkelkopf character is a murder loving, high stepping, “near-do” well at his craft, whose enthusiasm for murder is unmatched, but his effectiveness in carrying it out don’t exactly match his boastful claims.  A sort of bomb-toting hitman with an explosive personality and desire to kill. Lasch is plenty up to the task of bringing him to life. And “to life” is an understatement. Lasch is animated, verbally and non-verbally, prances about the stage, delivers his script with enthusiasm and seeming joy.  He kills his role, and the audience along with it. Lasch is a high school junior, no less, and so well embodied the murder-lover Winkelkopf that at times it seemed he had some of his cast mates on the verge of laughter.

The cast as a whole is a mix of relative newcomers and veterans to AP.  All have shining moments. Another honorable mention should be Colin Fleming-Stumpf’s portrayal of Mr. Podger.  Fleming-Stumpf creates an air of quirky, friendly eccentricity early in the play, then transforms it to the calculating and devious reader of palms seamlessly.  And Monish Bhattacharyya, in the role of Baines, the butler, balances nicely the role of loyal servitude to Arthur, while his willingness to enable the murderous plot is to suggest Baines’ own view of class and privilege.  

AP’s production overall slays it – “it” being the script, the production, casting, acting, the entertainment factor, and the audience.   It’s consistently humorous, hilariously funny at times, and it never backs away from that. Elements of Wilde’s story can be marked by some of social commentary and parody of class, and that remains timeless.  So does funny. And “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime” by Aurora Players is an evening well spent for all of those reasons.

With its intelligent and upper class script, there were several hiccups that occurred, often enough to notice, but not enough to detract from the performance overall.  This review is of opening night, and it’s likely with the talent on display throughout this production, any kinks will be worked out before the next viewing. The set, Arthur’s drawing room in London, was dabbled with period elements, and the costumes seemed appropriate to period and well fitted.  A lot of work has gone into this production, its hilarious depiction of English nobility no doubt challenge the players, and delighted the audience. And the Roycroft Pavilion set in Hamlin Park is a pleasant venue.

Running Time: Approximately 2 Hours 45 Minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

“Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime” runs until June 17, 2018 and is presented at the Historic Roycroft Pavilion in Hamlin Park, in East Aurora. For more information, click here.