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Prime Stage Theatre Presents:
A Knavish Piece of Mystery – Act II

October 8th, 2020

Strange things are afoot at the New Town Theatre!

Two actors are missing. Another has run off to hide in a water closet. And the New Town players are struggling to open a locked room that may harbor a terrible secret.

But August LaFleur holds back. An expert at devising and solving mysteries, he’s convinced that the real answers may lie deeper within the theatre’s renovated rehearsal space.

And so begins an exploration of a haunted brownstone — a windowless building with few exits … and ample places for mysteries to hide.

It all happens as A Knavish Piece if Mystery continues today at Prime Stage Mystery Theatre, and you can hear it all by clicking the player above or — if you missed the previous installments — by visiting the Mystery Theatre podcast library here. It’s all part of the virtual season of new performances being released under the banner Prime Online.

Other performances in the series will include a Zoom performance of Mockingbird, Kathryn Erskine’s National Book Award winning novel (adapted by Julie Jensen), and live-stream performances of Williard Simms’ Einstein, A Stage Portrait and an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

It’s all part of Prime Online’s mission of bringing theatre to you at home.

Also coming up is a virtual preview of Prime Stage’s 2021-22 season of live performances, which will kick off in November 2021 with my all-new adaptation of Frankenstein.

You can hear Prime Stage’s Operations Director Tina Cerny talk about these shows and more in the introduction to this week’s installment of A Knavish Piece.

Click the player at the top of this post. We’ll meet you there.

Prime Online Presents:
A Knavish Piece of Mystery

October 1st, 2020

Something strange is afoot at the New Town Theater. A dressing room is locked. Two actors are missing. And You are there to join the investigation as a cast and crew confront a mystery in which nothing is as it seems.

Get out your spy glasses and notepads … and prepare to take part in a behind-the-scenes adventure that explores the intersection of life and storytelling — an investigation in which You will discover that mysteries are everywhere.

To that end, after you finish listening, be sure to join the investigation by visiting the Prime Online Comments and Suggestions page, then plan to join us next Thursday as the mystery continues with Episode 2 of Prime Stage Theatre’s A Knavish Piece of Mystery. I’ll meet you there!


PREVIOUS POSTS – Countdown to Mystery:

Countdown to Mystery:
Murder on the Orient Express

September 27th, 2020

We’re counting down to Prime Stage Theatre’s release of A Knavish Piece of Mystery, the first installment in a roster of virtual programming running this fall on Prime Online. The series has been generating good press in the past few days, with preview stories appearing on Local Pittsburgh and Trib Live. And I understand there are more to come in the next few days. Stay tuned!

Our two previous posts highlighted Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth and Ira Levin’s Deathtrap. Both feature writers who find themselves caught in real-life mysteries, a device that you will also find featured in the forthcoming Knavish Piece.

Today, we’ll consider Murder on the Orient Express, the Agatha Christie who-done-in that began life as a novel (1934) and went on to become a well-regarded film (1974) directed by Sidney Lumet.

The plot centers on Christie’s Hercule Poirot, a master detective in the mold of St. John Lord Merridew (Sleuth) and Augustus LaFleur (A Knavish Piece), who investigates a murder on a snowbound train. The ensemble cast is at the top of their game, and the film has the kind of style and elegance you’d expect from one of cinema’s greatest directors.

While selecting plays and films to highlight in this series of posts, I was initially tempted to recommend Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, which has the distinction of being the longest-running play in theatre history (opening in London in 1952!), but, as a film version is not readily available and live performances are on hiatus, I have decided to go with the more accessible Express.

(Theatrical aside: Both The Mousetrap and A Knavish Piece take their titles from the same source. Can you name it?)

Sidney Lumet’s Murder on the Orient Express is readily available on most major streaming platforms, including Prime and Vudu. And, for those of you who prefer physical media, it’s also available on Blu-Ray, DVD, and VHS.

There’s also a remake (2017) directed by Kenneth Branagh and produced by Ridley Scott. Though not as well regarded as Lumet’s film, the newer version is likewise available on Prime, Vudu, and the usual assortment of physical media (including 4K!).

That’s it for now. Check out the trailer below, and I’ll meet you back here tomorrow for another recommendation.

Four days and counting!

Countdown to Mystery: Sleuth (1972)

September 25th, 2020

With a week to go before Prime Stage Theatre lifts the curtain on my new mystery series A Knavish Piece of Mystery, I thought it might be fun to look back at the plays, films, and stories that first got me interested in mysteries. I don’t intend this to be a definitive list of the all-time best of the genre. Rather, with a nod to Josh Olson and Joe Dante, whose podcast The Movies the Made Me invites screenwriters and filmmakers to discuss films that have shaped their art, we’ll make this a kind of Mysteries that Made Me.

First up is Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth, which debuted on Broadway in 1970, went on to win the Tony Award for Best Play, and has since been adapted twice for film, in a terrific 1972 release starting Laurence Olivier and Michael Cain and then again in a needlessly updated 2007 remake with Jude Law and Michael Caine.

The story takes place at the mansion of Andrew Wyke (Laurence Olivier), a successful mystery writer whose books feature the fictional detective St. John Lord Merridew. As the film opens, we see him in the center of a sprawling hedge maze, composing the final scene of his next book. Enter Milo Tindle (Michael Caine), a young hairdresser who has been having an affair with Wyke’s wife.

What follows is an intricate play of cat-and-mouse that adds up to what Clive Barnes of the New York Times has called “the best thriller I have ever seen.”

Nevertheless, the cleverness of the plot’s mystery notwithstanding, what impressed me most about the film when I caught it during its first run at Pittsburgh’s Warner Theatre, was that Sleuth is about more than its central mystery. By offering meta-commentary on the nature of crime fiction and economic privilege (topics also touched on in the recent film Knives Out), Sleuth becomes more than “a fastidious, acrobatically cunning and invigoratingly well-acted thriller” (Time Magazine).

It is this aspect of the film – its ability to be about more than the sum of its clues – that I have tried to emulate in my own stories, including the forthcoming A Knavish Piece of Mystery.

Sleuth is currently available on all-region DVD from Umbrella Entertainment. You can pick it up on Amazon for $12.99, where you’ll also find the more-readily available (though not recommended) 2007 remake. Sadly, the original is not currently available on any of the major streaming platforms, so — for now — the Umbrella DVD is the best way to catch this classic.

Check out the trailer below … and stop back tomorrow for another mystery recommendation.

I’ll be waiting.