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It Could Be Any One of Us at Apple Hill

A hard-working cast can’t save Alan Ayckbourn’s murder mystery

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Craig Soich, Pam Lee and Terri Bowser in It Could Be Any One of Us - PHOTO COURTESY OF JOETTE SALANDRO
  • Photo courtesy of Joette Salandro
  • Craig Soich, Pam Lee and Terri Bowser in It Could Be Any One of Us

Let’s open with a big salute to Rick Dutrow, Terri Bowser, Matt Henderson, Angie Lavelle, Craig Soich and Pam Lee. I defy anyone to find a harder-working cast than these six as they plow their way, under Wayne Brinda’s Herculean direction, through Apple Hill Playhouse’s production of Alan Ayckbourn’s It Could Be Any One of Us.

This show addresses a question that has buzzed around in my head for a couple of eons. Ayckbourn is one of Britain’s most prolific playwrights with well over 70 full-length plays. Most of them are about suburban infidelity, but most of them also involve intricate stagecraft where time and place collide and collapse. Why, I’ve wondered, hasn’t Ayckbourn tried his hand at a murder mystery since, in that genre, characterization (never his strong suit) takes a back seat to ingenious mechanized playwriting, an area where he has few equals?

It Could Be Any One of Us answers that question — he doesn’t seem to know how. All the elements are there: a collection of folks with murderous motives (in this case slightly batty members of the Chalke family), set in a rural, remote house, with a raging thunderstorm outside and the arrival of a character whose presence could mean they all end up disinherited.

He’s laid it all out, but it never catches fire. Ayckbourn writes loooong scenes of exposition where I think he thinks he’s setting a mood of dread, but it’s mostly stuff and nonsense about who-knows-what and it’s almost an hour into the show before it actually begins. Here’s where this cast truly proves its mettle; come hell or high water (or pages of musty dialogue), these six are going to use every bit of grit they’ve got to conquer this script, and maybe even bring some freshness to it if they’re lucky.

Eventually, however, there’s only so much that can be done and even they give out. Ayckbourn gets all tangled up in some incredibly implausible plotting. At this point, everyone on stage loses the thread (and some of their lines as well), and seems to just want to get to the end and head on home.

They weren’t alone.


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