‘The Butler Did It, Again’

Hawkeye Community Theatre is bringing back the Dinner Theatre in March.

Directed by veteran director Michael Shoopman, the fast-paced mystery comedy, written by Tim Kelly, “The Butler Did It, Again” will be presented March 27 through March 30 at 7 p.m., with an additional matinee at 2 p.m. on March 30. Dinner will be served at 6 p.m. on March 28, 29, and 30, by reservation only.

“The Butler Did It, Again” is a follow-up to the ever-popular “The Butler Did It,” although it is not necessary to have seen the prequel to fully enjoy this new story.

Publisher and socialite Miss Maple (Heidi Nelson) rents a plantation house, complete with menacing alligator, in the swamplands of Louisiana. Ruth Dice (Jess Barkhaus) has written her first novel entitled “Conversations with a Ghoul,” and Miss Maple would like to introduce her latest literary discovery.

Ruth has only contempt for the guests, including classic detective prototypes like tough Chandler Marlow (John Metier), chic Manhattan couple Rick and Laura Carlyle (Dylan Drummond and Timi Jordison), and westerner Tony Tallchief (Dana Westphal). She dismisses Louie Fan (Jeff Bluml) and gentle Father White (Brad McIntyre) as has-been hacks. Naturally, she’s the perfect candidate for murder. However, it’s the bizarre owner of the house of secrets, Casper Van Dine (Jordan Martin), who’s discovered in the parlor with a scalpel once belonging to Jack the Ripper in his back.

WHODUNNIT!? It’s up to the flakey detective writers to unravel the puzzle. Chills, thrills, alibis, clues, motives, and dazzling plot twists fly about the stage like pies-in-the-face. Nothing is what it seems.

Shoopman chose this show due to the fun subject matter, larger cast, and fast-paced action.

“I have been involved in many shows over the years and have done quite a few by playwright Tim Kelly,” says Shoopman. “The reason behind this is simple; he provides a good skeleton (script) which allows actors to form strong, entertaining characters. We season the whole thing with quirks, ticks, spins and surprises. The result is something the audience will enjoy watching. They can leave their collective cares at the door, settle in and take a fun ride on the laugh mobile.”

There are several veteran actors gracing the stage for this show. One such actor, Jeff Bluml, who plays Louie Fan, describes his character like this: “If Charlie Chan was a B-list actor, Louie Fan would be a D-list actor.” His character is stereotypically Asian and speaks with a purposefully poor Asian dialect. He further describes his character as “bumbling” and a very intelligent crime detective only in his own mind, but he does accidentally solve the crime in the end — mostly by process of elimination.

While there are several veteran HCT actors on the stage, there are a few new faces too. Brian Bidleman, who plays Chips, is no stranger to working with Shoopman, but this is the first time he’s on the HCT stage. He has worked the past few years under Shoopman as he directed the Comedia Musica Players productions. “Out of all the directors the last three years, he is my favorite one,” says Bidleman.

Other actors new to the HCT stage include Jess Barkhaus as Ruth Dice and Brittany Paugh as Linda Hayes.

According to Barkhaus, she is having a lot of fun and wishes she could take the time to be in more shows. Although this is her first show with HCT, she is no stranger to the stage, as she had done some theater and speech in school.

Paugh says her character just shows up to the party uninvited, but can’t get into a lot of details about her character. She says her character “keeps you guessing until the final scene.”

Keeping the mystery alive is one common theme heard from all of the actors in the show.

“They’ve just got to come see it,” Barkhaus said.

Fort tickets, go to www.hawkeyetheatre.com or call HCT at (515) 576-6061.

Cast list:

Jane Doe — Mari Newman

Reginald “Chips” Woodward — Brian Bidleman

Miss Jane Maple — Heidi Nelson

Isabel Hamilton/Mrs. Danvers/Eunice Meriwether — Karie Karr

Linda Hayes — Brittany Paugh

Chandler Marlowe — John Metier

Rick Carlyle — Dylan Drummond

Laura Carlyle — Timi Jordison

Tony Tallchief — Dana Westphal

Louie Fan — Jeff Bluml

Father Frank White — Brad McIntyre

Ruth Dice — Jess Barkhaus

Casper Van Dine /Charlie the Alligator — Jordan Martin