Murder at the Empress by Phillip C. Wagner

Drama (mystery)/ 5 Characters, 3 Women, 2 Men/ Full Length, Three Acts

Synopsis: What if a very rich old lady lived upstairs on the fifth floor of a venerable hotel, where the rooms are no longer rented? What if she had a fascination with murder, or the illusion of murder, and hired two actors to perform a murder mystery in her enormous suite?

That’s the premise of this eerie and entertaining romp, which is itself a delightfully tricky theatrical puzzle. As it begins, we think we are witnessing a real killing, only to discover that it’s just the two actors rehearsing a scene. Enter their patron, Mrs. Hutton, who unsettles them with her bizarre behaviour, not to mention the extremely sharp letter-opener she’s carrying. She announces that her maid has gone missing. Tensions rise further with the arrival of the Public Relation Directress for the hotel, hoping to get rid of the two actors without causing the establishment any embarrassment, as well as the discovery of the maid’s body in the bathtub — dressed up to look like Mrs. Hutton.

As mystery piles upon mystery and the characters accuse one another of the crime, they are directed by an investigating detective to assume the identity of whoever they think “dunnit” and act out the murder. In the end, only the arrival of the not-so-dead-after-all maid finally solves the puzzle — and puts an end to Mrs. Hutton’s elaborate charade.

Originally written to be performed at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC, Murder at the Empress can be adapted to a variety of locales.

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Performance rights must be secured before production
Contact information: Amateur and professional rights:
Phillip C. Wagner
Artistic Director
Tragically Comic Players
1552 Creighton Valley Road
Lumby, BC, Canada
V0E 2G1
Ph: (250) 547-6045

About the Playwright: Actor, director, musician, and playwright Phillip C. Wagner studied playwriting at the University of Iowa, and both playwriting and directing at the University of Alberta. His other plays include Shelf Life, Almost a Murder, Maybe, and the family musical (with Beth DeVolder) Ichabod and the Headless Horseman, which toured to 14 schools in the Greater Victoria area, and most recently was seen at the Powerhouse Theatre in Vernon In 2009. Currently the artistic director of the Tragically Comic Players in Lumby, BC, Canada, Phil is also a screenwriter and story editor.

Murder At The Empress was first produced in Oak Bay, Victoria, B.C., in 1979 by the Vancouver Island Players, and later adapted for production at the Jasper Park Lodge in Jasper, Alberta.