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This Week on Mystery Theatre:
Arsenic, Old Lace, and Obnoxious Padre

May 12th, 2022

For a gallon of elderberry wine, I take one teaspoonful of arsenic, then add a half teaspoonful of strychnine, and then just a pinch of cyanide.

That’s Aunt Martha’s recipe for wine with a kick (as in kick the bucket) from Joseph Kesselring’s dark-comedy classic Arsenic and Old Lace, and it’s too bad Jonathan Brewster and Dr. Einstein didn’t get the message.

<<< Dr. Einstein (Matt Henderson) and  Johnathan Brewster (Alex Blair) in Prime Stage Theatre’s Arsenic and Old Lace.

The same can be said for Humphry Jones and Janet Kessinger in Prime Stage Mystery Theatre’s “A Most Deadly Poison.” When we left them in last week’s episode, Janet has just fallen to the floor after downing a glass of Obnoxious Padre wine. She should have known it wasn’t safe to drink. The truth was on the label.

Last week, folks attending the preview and opening night performances of Arsenic and Old Lace had the chance to examine that label at a Mystery Theatre display in the lobby of Pittsburgh’s New Hazlett Theatre.

Also on hand at the display were bottles of Stained Fork Ale and Roast’d knife IPA, as well as a mug of Goofy Odour Tea and some shortbread cookies labeled simply  A Set of Tea Biscuits. The challenge was to interpret each of those labels and determine which selections (if any) might have been poisoned.

Audience members ponder the “Most Deadly Poison” clues before Prime Stage’s preview performance of Arsenic and Old Lace.>>>

Rising to the challenge much better than the character in “A Most Deadly Poison,” some of the folks attending last week’s performances had the puzzle solved by intermission, and you’ll get to hear their insights on upcoming Mystery Theatre episodes, starting with the one that drops today via your favorite podcast app.

Also, if you stop by the Mystery Theatre page at the Prime Stage website, you’ll find a newly designed menu for navigating the current and past chapters of the series. It’s a great way to follow the multi-episode adventures of super sleuth August LaFleur and the New Towne Players. And for those of you who want to cut right to the solution of the Obnoxious Padre puzzle, the button below will let you dive straight into this week’s episode, which also features an interview with Arsenic director Liam Macik.

Click play … and I’ll meet you there!

This Month at Prime Stage:
Mystery Theatre & A Wrinkle in Time

March 1st, 2022

You are in a circular room with twelve locked doors.

Each door is positioned like the hours of a clock and stenciled with an apparently random word or phrase.

You have 12 keys, each labeled with a different code.

Your task: decipher the codes, unlock the doors, and begin unraveling a mystery that must be solved before time runs out.

That’s the premise of this month’s all-new mystery “Time is Out of Joint,” which begins this Thursday and runs through March 31 on Prime Stage Mystery Theatre—the podcast where you are part of the story.

You can find Mystery Theatre at or wherever you get your podcasts.

Also premiering this month is Prime Stage Theatre’s A Wrinkle in Time, directed by Sunny Disney Fitchett, choreographed by Shana Simmons, and based on Madeline L’Engle’s time-travel classic.

It’s a fantastical journey that blends science fiction with family themes and spiritual growth, all reimagined for the 21st century by Brian Wongchaowart and Wayne Brinda.

The show previews on March 4, opens on March 5, and runs through March 13 at Pittsburgh’s New Hazelett Theatre. It’s not to be missed.

And if you’re able to attend the March 5 opening, be sure to stop by our special Mystery Theatre display where you can further explore the mystery of “Time is Out of Joint” and possibly win one of the science-fiction classics featured in this week’s episode of Mystery Theatre.

I’m looking forward to being there, as I’ve been MIA since December, busily writing the novelization of a screenplay I’m developing with brother Christopher Connolly and film producers Jonathan Sanger and M. Jones. More updates on that project coming soon. But for now, get ready for Mystery Theatre on Thursday and Wrinkle in Time on Saturday.

I’ll meet you there!

Live Theatre: On Stage and In Your Home

November 18th, 2021

No doubt about it. We’re in the midst of a paradigm shift—a time for reconsidering old assumptions even as we hope for a so-called return to normal.

Consider: the past two years have seen an explosion of teleconferences, delivery services, and online commerce. Mask wearing and physical distancing effectively canceled last year’s cold and flu season, and mRNA technology has become a medical game-changer. Likewise, changes in the arts have been seismic.

Above: David Nackman’s performance in Karloff: the Man and the Monster marked Prime Stage Theatre’s return to live performances after a year of virtual productions. A recording of the play is currently available via video-on-demand from AnywhereSeat.

With more people staying at home in the first quarter of 2021, the sale of print books grew 29 percent while ebook and audio editions saw dramatic increases as well. Likewise, sales of physical media players (once thought destined for extinction) grew 27 percent in the first few months of the 2020 lockdown, while the growth of streaming services was even more dramatic, with subscriptions passing 1 billion.

And then there was Warner Brothers with its decision to release “its entire 2021 slate of feature films on HBO Max simultaneously with the release in theaters” even as Broadway’s Hamilton played on Disney+. And now, services like Anywhere Seat, Marque TV, and Broadway on Demand are further increasing the availability of live-theatre productions by streaming them to homes around the world.

Of course, at-home entertainment isn’t likely to supplant live theatre. Just as cinema didn’t replace the stage and movie houses survived the advent of TV, at-home streaming will never be the same as a night out. That’s something I was reminded of two weeks ago when I attended opening night of Prime Stage’s Karloff–my first attendance at a live theatre event in nearly two years. Sitting fifth-row center, surrounded by vaxed-and-masked friends and strangers, I realized the truth of a comment that filmmaker Edgar Wright recently made about staying in vs going out. “Sitting in the dark with strangers,” he said, “is a communal experience that no platform streaming to your living room can provide.”

Nevertheless, if you were unable to attend Karloff live, you can thank the recent paradigm shift for making it possible to catch the show via video-on-demand.

Between now and November 28, Prime Stage Theatre’s production of Karloff: The Man and the Monster is available via the streaming service Anywhere Seat. Tickets and information are available at the Prime Stage website, where you can also learn about future performance—both live and virtual.

The world is changing. The old normal may be a thing of the past, but given recent advancements, the new one may be even better.

Below: The official trailer for Prime Stage Theatre’s production of Randy Bowser’s Karloff: The Man and the Monster, directed by Arthur DeConceliis, currently available via vod.

A Trap Full of Monsters:
The Return of Prime Stage Mystery Theatre

October 7th, 2021

“It is of the highest importance in the art of detection to be able to recognize out of a number of facts which are incidental and which are vital.”

The above advice comes from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes and the father of modern detective fiction. And it will be good advice to keep in mind as Prime Stage Mystery Theatre launches its third season today (Tuesday, October 7) with an all-new five-part mystery titled “A Trap Full of Monsters.”

Here’s the synopsis:

Crucial pieces of stage equipment are missing from the Frankenstein set at the New Towne Theatre.

Some players suspect the culprit is the New Towne ghost or some other malevolent presence lurking in the shadows beneath the stage.

Fortunately, master sleuth August LaFleur is in town to record a documentary about the New Towne’s previous mysteries. Unfortunately, he wants you to solve this new puzzle … and he expects you to do it while the documentary crew records.

And so … as camera’s roll, you must set about following clues that involve trap doors, a devil’s portal, and a roster of eccentric characters – some of whom may not be what they seem.

Twists and counter-twists ensue, ultimately leading to a surprising revelation that will once again prove “stories are everywhere.” 

As with the previous seasons, each episode will conclude with a question or story challenge, and you are invited to “practice the art of detection” by chiming in via the contact page at the Prime Stage website.  Alternately, you can respond to posts that that Prime Stage and I will be placing on Facebook and Twitter … or by leaving a comment at the bottom of this post.

As with past seasons, episodes of “A Trap Full of Monsters” will feature some of the responses we receive along with behind-the-scenes info on Prime Stage’s upcoming productions: Karloff and Frankenstein.

[Click here to read about Prime Stage’s decision to move the premiere of Frankenstein to fall 2022.]

New episodes of “A Trap Full of Monsters” will be released each Thursday through November 4, the day before Prime Stage presents its preview of Karloff: The Man and the Monster at Pittsburgh’s New Hazlett Theatre.

Click the player below to start the mystery. I’ll meet you there!