‘Columbo Mystery’ The Perfect Prescription For Town Players Season Finale
By Elizabeth Young
For the final production of their season, Town Players of Newtown have given their stage over to the bumbling detective in a rumpled trench coat from the eponymous TV series Columbo. Faced with another mysterious murder, the chatty investigator teases out the culprit in Prescription: Murder, A Columbo Mystery, which opened last weekend to sold out audiences.
Well-known and respected psychiatrist Dr Flemming (Mark Rubino) is no longer particularly interested in his wife, Claire (Rachel Ames). Poor Claire works hard to reignite the flame in their marriage, but the doctor is otherwise smitten with Susan Hudson, a much younger blonde (Nikki Yatsenick).
Claire is simply expendable. The doctor hatches a complex plan to get his wife out of the way.
The adulterous affair escapes the attention of Dr Flemming’s administrative assistant, Miss Petrie (Sherry Rak). Miss Petrie is loyal and unsuspecting, going about her business with a smile, even as the circumstances become increasingly disturbing.
Enter the title character, Columbo (A.M. Bhatt), who has been assigned to the murder case, herein which will remain under wraps, by his superior, David Gordon (Joshua Adelson). Mr Gordon also happens to be friendly with Dr Flemming, which is quite convenient for the good doctor.
Although the audience knows throughout “who done it,” there are still quite a few twists and humorous turns supplied by Detective Columbo. The opening night audience offered a lot of laughs and several “that was fun” comments could be heard on the way out the door.
And fun it was, particularly as concerns A.M. Bhatt’s portrayal of the main character. He nailed it.
The unlit cigar, the lazy physicality, and the distracted questions are all perfect. Mr Bhatt is a talented performer who appears to take his work seriously, resulting in one great performance after another. He is a hoot to watch in this.
Mr Rubino gives his Dr Flemming a reserved nature, which fits with the doctor’s need to hide his secrets. As his wife, Rachel Ames is very good as her Claire tries desperately to woo her husband back to her arms.
The young lover, Susan (Nikki Yatsenick), is vulnerable as her character is duped into diabolical deeds.
Bringing a lively energy, Joshua Adelson’s David Gordon is fun to watch, as is the always smiling Sherry Rak’s Miss Petrie.
The set was designed and built by Kirk Dugan, husband of Director Michele Leigh. It is a revolving set, which facilitates quick scene changes. Mr Dugan also plays the role of the dry cleaner delivery man and does it well.
Ms Leigh has a reverence for the TV show Columbo, as well as its title character. She has obviously worked hard to recreate an authentic 1960s atmosphere and has succeeded. No detail was too minute for her attention. Most obviously, Ms Leigh has had a lot of fun directing this play, and isn’t that what theater is about?
Come and see this audience pleaser of a mystery so you can catch Columbo exercising his exceptional sleuthing skills.
Performances continue run weekends through December 7. Curtain is Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 and Sundays, November 24 and December 1, at 2.
In addition to the regular performances, a Thursday, evening show is planned for December 5 (regular curtain). Also, audiences interested in speaking with Ms Leigh — who has reportedly watched all 69 episodes of the television series — and the cast are invited to do so following the matinees. Talkback programs will follow those performances.
Performances are at The Little Theatre, 18 Orchard Hill Road in Newtown. For tickets and additional information visit newtownplayers.org.