Lincolnton High School’s performance this month of Eileen Moushey’s play “The Great High School Whodunit” includes mystery, comedy and some unpredictable twists and turns.
With a cast of more than 15 students ranging in age and experience level from amateur freshmen to seasoned senior, the school drama club, headed by teacher Shane Stephens, is looking forward to involving the audience in the production.
During an intermission period between Acts 1 and 2, crowd members will get the chance to purchase clues to help them solve the case of character “Debbie Dudley’s” missing diamond ring.
Senior Ashley Simmons brings the snooty woman to life, describing her role as both “loud and angry.”
Club president this year, the 17-year-old has been taking the stage in school plays since freshman year and feels right at home when alongside fellow drama students.
“You get to do things that outside the club would seem pretty ridiculous but inside the club seem pretty normal,” she said.
Acting is also a “break from monotony,” Simmons noted.
The story takes place within the setting of a high school assembly where teachers and students — divided into the “troublemakers,” “hippies,” “cheerleaders” and “conspiracy theorists” — have gathered for the presentation of a large financial donation from Debbie and her husband “Dale Dudley,” an alumnus of the school.
Without additional funds, the facility risks a future shutdown.
However, during the assembly, Debbie discovers that her $3 million ring has been removed from the school safe and, in its place, sits a Jack of Hearts playing card, Simmons said.
Following the shocking news, the characters are forced to locate the high-dollar piece of jewelry and stitch together the mystery behind its disappearance.
For teacher “Becky Bolton,” a role filled by junior Bailey Beam, a potential school shutdown is the worst news of her life.
In fear of losing her job, partly because she’s a terrible speller, Bolton frequently breaks out in random tearful outbursts throughout the show.
“She’s kind of dumb,” Beam said of her character.
The 16-year-old’s petite stature and oversized costume glasses make for a unique and comedic combination.
For 15-year-old freshman Xavier Dyer, who tackles Dale Dudley’s wimpy personality, the play serves as his inaugural high school performance, one which he hopes will propel him into future school roles.
“You get to be somebody else for a little bit,” he said of acting. “It’s like stepping into a different world.”
Wearing a suit pieced together with a purple and white striped bowtie, Dyer is the exact opposite of his on-stage wife Debbie.
“She’s very dominant, and I’m passive,” he said.
His daughter throughout the show, “Daphne Dudley,” a spoiled wealthy girl portrayed by sophomore Ellen Carpenter, gives the audience a laugh or two with her ditzy words and mannerisms.
Madly in love with the school’s smooth, laid-back English teacher, Rick Trumbull, played by junior Warren Church, Daphne finds herself at odds with her mother — as does every other character — throughout the course of the story, Carpenter said.
Stephens considers the performance to be an entertaining mix of elements both thrilling and funny.
“It’s an opportunity for the community to see the positive side of education and a good group of students,” he said.
Throughout the evening, the cast will also serve the crowd an array of desserts.
Immediately following the show, audience members may cast ballots on which character took the ring.
The winner(s) will receive a prize, Stephens said.
“The Great High School Whodunit” will show 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Citizens Center in Lincolnton.
“Who wouldn’t want to see our bright shining faces?” Simmons said.