Courtney Tucker, a senior at Bronx Theatre High School, shrieks and grasps her friend’s arm.
With much cajoling, she steadies her voice enough to read the final listing in the personals of the Chipping Cleghorn Gazette.
“A murder is announced and will take place on Friday, October the 13, at Little Paddocks, at 6:30 p.m. Friends please accept this, the only intimation,” she says.
Courtney, portraying a 75-year-old named Dora “Bunny” Bonner, settles back into the couch in Little Paddocks, a boardinghouse in a quaint British town, and begins debating with her friend and owner of the establishment, Letitia Blacklock, as well as other guests, about the author’s intent. Is it a joke? Is it an allusion to the cook’s delicious death cake? Or is it something to be taken seriously?
Suddenly, a cacophony interrupts the bickering and silences the debate.
So began the Bronx Theatre High School’s staging of A Murder is Announced on April 18. For nearly two hours, 16 seniors enthralled the audience as they watched police inspector Craddock, played by Mikeisha Mcanuff, enlist boarders at Little Paddock in his mission to catch Miss Blacklock in the act of conning her way into a sizeable inheritance. Miss Blacklock, played by Anitha Guzman, confesses once an elderly and nosey neighbor named Miss Marple, played by Katherine Saldana, gets on the case.
Flashes of dramatic light arrangements and jolts of eerie music accentuated the plot.
Every year, the senior class stages a finale ensemble. Traditionally, students have written their own performances, but this year, seniors said they opted to perform the murder mystery because it intrigued them all and also provided everyone with the opportunity to act.
The students began reading and analyzing potential plays to stage in September. They chose to stage the seventh they read. Seniors then elected Cindy Sambula play director, Yovi Feliz stage manager and Paul Bryant lighting designer. After auditions, they rehearsed daily and occasionally met after class or during weekends for extra practice.
For several students, mastering a British accent was the most difficult part of the preparation.