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PLAY REVIEW

'Death by Design' blends mystery, comedy

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From left, Chris Ebke, Devon Moore, Sarah Ebke and Bill Bossman (in the chair.) The Bellevue Little Theatre is currently in its run of “Death by Design.”

There is always something special about seeing a live performance at the Bellevue Little Theatre.

I love seeing actors, both familiar and new to the BLT stage, fill the intimate seating area with energy and warmth.

I also knew that the Bellevue Little Theatre is doing all that it can to provide a safe environment for the community. Several sets of seats were taped off, as to provide space between patrons, audience members are required to wear a mask and there is hand sanitizer toward the front doors of the BLT.

I was not familiar with “Death by Design” before going to see the show but I was excited to see how elements of mystery and comedy were going to be mixed into one show.

Sometimes things just go together perfectly such as peanut butter and jelly, peanut butter and chocolate and peanut butter with pastries. The BLT cast does a superb job of blending mystery and comedy. Just when my heart would sink into despair, Chris Ebke as Edward Bennett would trot on the stage wearing a risqué outfit that had laughter thundering throughout the audience.

Ebke does a perfect job of portraying a high and mighty artist that looks down on everyone else while at the same time uplifting the show with constant laughs.

This mystery play, with elements of comedy, is best described as a mixture of the wit of Noel Coward and the mystery plots and unexpected twists of Agatha Christie, theater officials said.

“Death by Design” follows the story of renowned acting couple Edward and Soral Bennett who have retreated to their country estate to recover from the disastrous opening of their latest stage venture.

They are unexpectedly joined by a diverse group of “friends” who bring their quirky personalities to the reunion.

An unexpected murder unites the group as they, along with Bridget the maid and Jack the chauffeur, struggle to solve the murder. An unexpected and confused stranger joins to the group, and the result provides an interesting and surprising evening of murder, mixed with elements of comedy.

Who is the guilty party? The audience will not know until the end.

I think the BLT does a good job of portraying that the killer could be anyone of the cast. I truly was guessing until the end and overall felt that the show was interactive.

Nicki Sitler as Sorel Bennett played off Ebke and the two of them were often the scene stealers of the show. The banter between Sitler and Ebke enthralled me and made me feel like I was watching a live-action sitcom.

The Bennett relationship is like watching a train wreck that just keeps getting more absurd and the more odd the dynamic becomes, the more laughs that it gets from me.

Out of all the characters, though, my hands down favorite is Victoria Van Roth, played by Connie Lee. Lee gives energy and life to a character that a lesser actress would not be able to. Lee would not even have to be speaking and could entice me to laugh with the over-exaggerated and melodramatic antics of her character.

Victoria Van Roth is the epitome of an absurd artist who fancies themselves as part of high society and Lee nails the role.

The BLT does an excellent job of balancing different types of humor and never feels one-note.

The show does take some time to get going and is slow to start off, but after the initial setup, this play is almost non-stop laughs.

If there are any drowsy audience members, they are sure to be alerted by the gunshots that are present in the show. I knew they were coming but I still jumped up in my seat.

“Death by Design” is a must see show for the Bellevue community and surrounding areas.

Reservations will be limited and may be made online at bellevuelittletheatre.weebly.com, or by calling 402-291-1554 between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Jon Flowers directs this mystery written by Rob Urbinati. Brian Callaghan is stage manager, Todd Uhrmacher is costumer and Joey Lorincz is technical director. Amy Wagner is production assistant for this mystery.

The BLT has added Feb. 4 and Feb. 5 as extra performances. There will be no performance on Feb. 6.

The Bellevue Little Theatre is located at 203 W Mission Ave.

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