GreenMan combines ‘Downton Abbey,’ murder mystery

Kathy Bright, Erick Sosa and Katie Monahan Soria in GreenMan Theatre's
Kathy Bright, Erick Sosa and Katie Monahan Soria in GreenMan Theatre's "Doubtful Abbey: Murder and Mayhem at Fussworthy Manor"

Fans of a certain PBS show about English aristocracy will want to check out GreenMan Theatre’s presentation of its latest dinner-theater fundraiser, “Doubtful Abbey: Murder and Mayhem at Fussworthy Manor.”

Audiences will be able to enjoy an authentic Italian meal and a comedic murder mystery. Performances will be at 7 p.m. Feb. 21, 22, 28 and March 1; and at 6 p.m. March 2 at Angelo’s Ristorante in Elmhurst.

This production was written and is directed by Carolyn Thomas-Davidoff of Western Springs.

She started writing the play over the summer, knowing how popular “Downton Abbey” is. A couple of other theater members came up with the idea to tweak the show, and she ran with it.

“We have a dowager duchess, a Lord and Lady Fussworthy, and they have four children,” she said. “The idea is that everyone is gathered for a surprise birthday party for the Duchess. The storm changes to snow and everyone, including the audience, is snowed in. A jewelry heist takes place, and then someone is murdered. A detective happens to be there as a guest, so he takes over the investigation and they begin looking into who might have committed the murder.”

The audience gets a say in whodunit, she said. They get to finger who they think committed the heinous act and why, and from all the right answers, a few names are drawn for prizes.

There is also a costume prize, she said, for the best 1940s costumes. She’s trying to give a definite flavor of the time period, down to the nitty-gritty details.

“It’s set in 1941. I wanted to set it during the Blitz when London was being bombed on a nightly basis,” she said. “I wanted to get this outside of London in the country. Britain, because it was an island, had to institute rationing very quickly. It went into effect Jan. 8, 1940. Bootleg sugar becomes a factor in this play also. I read that women, to deal with the fact that they had no nylons, used gravy browning and/or coffee to paint their nylons on. And if it was raining out, they were in trouble because their nylons would run in a totally different way.”

The music will be of the period, as well.

This is 10th dinner-theater fundraiser.

“I think it is bargain entertainment when you consider you get dinner and a show for $50 a person,” Thomas-Davidoff said. “And you don’t have to pay for parking. We’re trying to give value for money. They go over wonderfully well. It seems to be entertainment people really enjoy. It’s not like going to a big stage downtown where you need opera glasses to see the characters. Here, the actors are right next to you.”

There will be a cocktail hour before the show begins with the actors mingling about in character. The play will be interspersed throughout the meal, with the big reveal coming during the dessert.

“This is a comic murder mystery. It’s intended to be funny and there’s quite a lot of action,” she said. “The audience will have a great time. It’s meant to be a little spooky, a little funny with a lot of action. Eat, drink and enjoy.”