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September 24, 2013 > Theatre Review: Web of Murder snares applause at Broadway West

Theatre Review: Web of Murder snares applause at Broadway West

By Janet Grant

The scene is set in a brooding Victorian mansion high atop a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Enter one rich, nasty, old, will-toting, wheel-chair bound widow, her spinster daughter, her personal physician, a long-suffering housekeeper, two nieces and their fiancˇes, and a mystery man. What ensues is a night of exciting, fast-paced suspense courtesy of Broadway WestÕs production of ÒWeb of Murder.Ó

From the start, Jonathan TroyÕs modern-day whodunit skillfully directed by Paula Chenoweth sets the right atmospheric tone. The house is gloomy, winds are howling, the inhabitants are miserable and expectations run high that something wicked is on its way.

The audience is immediately drawn into the story by observing Stephanie Osterman (Dawn Cates), a maiden daughter trapped in the desolate mansion with a cruel and unloving mother. Ms. Cates portrayal of Stephanie is at once believable, as she wanders dolefully throughout the house while her youth withers away. Her only kind companion is Nora, the Housekeeper, artfully portrayed by Elizabeth Lowe. Ms. LoweÕs character is compassionate and rather humorous. It seems she found the key to surviving the taunts of her demanding mistress long ago.

Minerva Osterman as the mistress of the house is convincingly played by the talented Mary Galde. Ms. Galde lavishes her role with such heartless and sadistic glee; you can almost hear her snarl. She is only tempered by her physician, Dr. Adler portrayed by Kyle Smith. Mr. Smith is effective as the stiff, no-nonsense but snaky doctor.

Nicole Odor as the niece, Mary Hamilton, adds a note of humanity and hope to the ensemble. She comes at her AuntÕs bidding with her uninvited fiancˇ Keith Latimer, energetically played by Mikey Schott. Mr. SchottÕs clean-cut, nice guy role blends well with Ms. OdorÕs sweet and somewhat na•ve character.

The bleak setting of the play is broken up on several occasions with the humor and timing of MaryÕs sister, Belle Hamilton (Ambera De Lash), and her fiancˇ Pete Martinelli (Jim Woodbury). Ms. De Lash as the trusting, air-headed showgirl and Mr. WoodburyÕs gum-smacking, reformed thug worked well together and drew some of the eveningÕs well-earned laughter.

Spencer Stevenson was also convincing as ÒThe Man.Ó His bravado understated some mysterious secret that kept you wondering throughout.

Sir Walter Scott wrote, "O, what a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive." You would have thought he was discussing ÒWeb of MurderÓ as this Broadway West production has it all: nasty characters, a will, a Victorian mansion, baying hounds, howling wind, icky spiders, suspense, secrets, deceit, mystery, death, cool card tricks, and lots and lots of entertainment.

If you love a good old-fashioned type of whodunit, come see Broadway WestÕs marvelous ÒWeb of Murder,Ó where the game is definitely afoot.

ÒWeb of MurderÓ
September 20 - October 19
8 p.m. (Sunday matinees at 1 p.m.)
Broadway West Theatre Company
4000-B Bay Street, Fremont, CA 94539
(510) 683-9218
www.broadwaywest.org
Tickets: $10 - $25

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