Alice Austen's fourth wall broken down in solution to "Edwin Drood"

For one week only, the campus community is cordially invited to join the cast of the Music Hall Royale as it attempts to unearth the secrets of Charles Dickens’ last, unfinished novel.

“The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” written by Rupert Holmes and directed by Melanie Blood, is an engaging and hilarious exercise in breaking the fourth wall enhanced by brilliant set design, sharp musical numbers and audience involvement.

A cast of colorful characters is presented throughout the show, contributing to the web of danger that ensnares the protagonist, Edwin Drood (played by cross-dressed senior Lauren Alaimo) as he prepares for his marriage to Rosa Bud (senior Kim Benkert). The marriage is much to the dismay of Drood’s lustful uncle John Jasper, a delightfully deranged character played by junior Adam LaSalle.

The play progresses into a whodunit where the audience is polled to determine the ending of each night’s show.

The musical numbers are excellently performed and crisply choreographed, especially the delightfully meta “Both Sides of the Coin.” This number features junior Brandon DeFilippis, in the double role of chairman of the Music Hall and the town mayor, commiserating with Jasper, a character with split personalities.

The conflict comes to a head in the tense and discordant “No Good Can Come from Bad,” which features soaring harmonies and expert voice blending.

There is not a single weak link in the cast, and each actor playing an actor playing a character seems perfectly comfortable in the dual role. The cast even mingles with the audience as Music Hall Royale actors during each interlude.

When an audience member told one actor that his character was intimidating, he replied in a swaggering British accent, “That’s exactly what I was going for – to be intimidating. I said to myself, ‘Clive, be intimidating,’ and I said, ‘Yes, Clive,’ and I said, ‘Yes, Clive.’”

Meanwhile, senior Jake Roa, playing the perpetually drunk Nick Cricker, sprawled across the seats and asked to be awakened for the next act.

The agency of the “actors” makes for a dynamic – and often hilarious – show of barely contained chaos. The cast breaks into song only to be silenced by the chairman. One character is handed his check onstage after performing a bit role.

Characters within the play complain when set pieces don’t move, and even cut off the pit. “They pay you by the note?” senior Rebecca Hoffman interjected as the flamboyant Princess Puffer after an especially melodramatic flourish from the musicians.

The masterfully crafted set enhances the show within a show dynamic by featuring a stage within a stage (on a stage). Set pieces placed at dynamic angles work with the double stages to draw visual attention inward. With a projector serving as part of the background and a curtain that covers only half the set, scene changes are fluid and flawless.

The show will run from Nov. 17 - 20 with performances at 8 p.m. in the Alice Austin Theatre. Tickets are available in the Student Association Ticket Office or online. The cost is $8 for students, $9 for faculty/staff and $10 for the general public.