In Don Nigro’s pleasant yet prolonged British comedic mystery “Ravenscroft,” crisply directed by Debra Kent at the Dayton Theatre Guild and set on a snowy December night in 1905, Inspector Ruffing, a perceptive, no-nonsense sleuth, has difficulty dissecting the truth inside a remote manor containing five tight-lipped women. His intriguing investigation concerning the death of stableman Patrick Roarke takes a series of humorous turns because each woman, fully content with the secrets and lies they have concocted, is emotionally or sexually connected to the deceased lothario. The blame game among the potential murderesses eventually grows to fever pitch, which leaves Ruffing exasperated beyond belief with very little of his sanity intact.
Nigro’s script isn’t tight (Act 1 is sluggishly drawn out and the final 15 minutes feel strained), but is effectively inhabited by a very appealing cast with credible diction. Robb Willoughby is marvelously stern and perturbed as Ruffing. Rachel Wilson, one of the best chameleon actresses at the Guild, brings elegance, wit and intuitiveness to her role as Marcy Kleiner, an Austrian governess with a shady past. Wendi Michael, oozing haughty sophistication, equally shines as the widowed Mrs. Ravenscroft, who doesn’t hesitate to protect and ridicule her flighty, imaginative daughter Gillian (the perky Danielle DeLorme). As a pair of servants, Jenna Burnette (Dolly) and Jennifer Lockwood (Mrs. French) offer hearty laughs, especially in the more exciting Act 2. Lockwood is particularly responsible for molding the climax and delivers her suspenseful revelations with a tender sincerity that softens Mrs. French’s tough exterior.
Further, the production’s refined classiness extends to the attractive work of set designer Blake Senseman, costumer Carol Finley and hair and wig designer Greg Smith.
“Ravenscroft” admirably ushers in a new theatrical year while proving the search for truth, no matter how confusing, upsetting or frustrating, can be a real drag.
Ravenscroft continues through Sunday, January 23 at the Dayton Theatre Guild, 430 Wayne Ave. Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 5 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Act One: 70 minutes: Act Two: 55 minutes. Tickets are $10-$17. For tickets or more information, call (937) 278-5993 or visit online at www.daytontheatreguild.org