“The Manor” at Greystone Mansion Theatre Review – Murder and Madness

The Manor,” by multi talented playwright Kathrine Bates, returned this week to Greystone Mansion for its twelfth season, and is by now a Los Angeles/Beverly Hills institution. Opening night on July 9th marked the celebration of its 200th performance!

Based on real events that occurred 90 years ago about the oil-rich Doheny family’s rise and fall into tragedy in the Teapot Dome bribery scandal during the flapper and prohibition age of the 1920s and 1930s, the fictionalized version is staged in the actual opulent Doheny residence. The 55-roomed Mansion, listed on the National Registry of Historical Places, sits on 47,000 square feet of land and has been used for countless TV shows and movies. If the walls could talk what a story they would tell! As it is, the local icon is rumored to be haunted!

 

 

 

 

The Doheny name has been replaced with MacAlister and all actual historical characters are given new names. To quote James the butler (Daniel Lench), intoning in the opening scene, “The names have been changed to protect the guilty.” While he introduces the show and background story, the players slowly emerge in ghostly fashion from various portals and corners of the beautiful wood paneled living room and stand time-frozen until he completes his opening lines. Then, they come alive, moving around, chatting, and dancing—celebrating the wedding of young Sean Macalister (John-Paul Lavoisier) to Abby Parsons (Shelby Kocee). All are resplendently attired in fashionable 1920’s attire, and reflect the attitude and behavior of the wealthy upper society of their era. Elegant Marion MacAlister (Kathrine Bates) and Charles MacAlister’s (Darby Hinton) wedding gift to the newlyweds is Greystone Mansion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The uniquely staged presentation takes place in different rooms of the historic mansion, and plays out as a round robin. Butler James, housekeeper Ursula (Nina Borisoff), and mute maid Ellie (Esther Levy Richman) lead three different groups of audience members from room to room of the wonderfully restored Greystone Mansion to witness different scenes of the narrative portrayed, and imagine what may truly have happened in each room. In some scenes Marion (Kathrine Bates) plays the grand piano, and also accompanies Henrietta Havesham Pugh’s (Sarah van der Pol) rendition of “Pretty Baby.” At times the entire audience is brought together again, as they are during the final scenes leading up to a shocking and apparent murder and suicide.

 

 

 

An early scene sees Gregory Pugh (Jaymes Wheeler) and Henrietta fighting furiously. It seems they married because she was pregnant…oops, she thought she was pregnant! In another room Charles MacAlister (Darby Hinton) and Senator Alfred Winston (Daniel Leslie) forge the deal that will ultimately lead to their downfall. In a third scene, Abby is in the bedroom confiding in mute maid Ellie, with whom she obviously has a close relationship,about her secret longings, fears and aspirations. It’s all very cleverly coordinated so the scenes make sense—while sitting in the very rooms whose richly wood-paneled walls hold all the secrets gives it a real extra edge!

 

 

 

 

Money, madness, murder, sex and mystery—it’s all here, in what some have likened to Dynasty and Downton Abbey. Whether that’s so or not, “The Manor” is extremely enjoyable and will get you wondering what really happened and wanting to explore further for yourself. Great staging, direction, and performances all round. Don’t miss the show, or the opportunity to see Greystone Mansion.

A wonderful cake was ordered to celebrate the 200th performance, and be shared by everyone present on opening night. Unfortunately some lucky ants got to it first and the cake had to be discarded! I’ve included a photo of Kathrine Bates with cake—she takes the cake in more ways than one with “The Manor.”

 

 

 

WHAT: “The Manor.” Return engagement of the hit environmental crime/scandal drama.

WHO: Written by Kathrine Bates. Her other works include “TALHOTBLOND,” “The Color of Rose,” “Roar of the Crowd,” “Evil Legacy,” and a stage adaptation of “Double Indemnity.”

Directed by Flora Plumb. Original production directed by Beverly Olevin. Produced for Theatre 40 by David Hunt Stafford and Kathrine Bates.

CAST: for the 2014 mounting of “The Manor” includes, in alphabetical order, Kathrine Bates, Nina Borisoff, Ben Gavin, Darby Hinton, Shelby Kocee, John-Paul Lavoisier, Daniel Lench, Daniel Leslie, Melanie MacQueen, Esther Levy Richman, Mark Rimer, Annalee Scott, Martin Thompson, Sarah van der Pol and Jaymes Wheeler.

Production manager: Don Solosan.

WHEN: Wednesday, July 9 through Saturday, August 16, 2014. Evenings at 6:00 p.m. on July 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 17, 18, 24, 25, August 7, 8 and 15. Sold out on July 12.

Matinee performances on Saturdays at 1:00 p.m. on July 13, 26, August 9 and 16.

WHERE: GREYSTONE MANSION

Greystone Park, 905 Loma Vista Drive (above Sunset Blvd.), Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Free parking onsite.

ADMISSION: $55.

RESERVATIONS: (310) 694-6118. Reservations must be made by phone, in advance. No online ticketing. No one will be admitted without advance reservation. Please reserve early, as many performances will sell out.

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