This year, the Yale Dramatic Association will weave comedy into a murder mystery for its Freshman Show.
“The Trouble with Summer People,” written in 1998 by Tim Kelly, opens this Thursday at the Yale Repertory Theatre. The play follows newlyweds Rupert and Janis Baxter, who plan to travel to a guesthouse in Cape Cod for their honeymoon but discover a few weeks before their arrival that a murder has been committed in the house. Dillon Miller ’18, who plays Rupert, emphasized that the play primarily aims to entertain rather than communicate a particular message.
“This play is not trying to prove anything, it is not trying to make a point. It’s just a fun show,” Miller said. “The characters are so vibrant: almost like a big smorgasbord of ridiculous personalities.”
The guesthouse in the play, “Wind Chimes,” is owned by Rupert’s aunt, Margaret Ames. With the knowledge that Rupert is a military police officer, she strongly urges him to solve the murder. But Margaret is unaware that a few weeks before his honeymoon, Rupert had accidentally arrested the Norwegian Ambassador, which cost him his position. Caroline Francisco ’18, who plays Margaret, described her character as a “no nonsense matriarch” who repeatedly tells the other characters to remain calm, but is herself unnerved by the murder.
Miller added that despite Margaret’s belief that her nephew will be able to bring light to the crime, Rupert is actually weighed down by a heavy cloud of insecurity from his past faults with the military, which leads him to want to prove his worth by solving the mystery.
For Emma Healy ’18, the Freshman Show is her first stint as a director at Yale. Her previous experience had been working as an assistant director in “All My Sons,” which premiered last semester.
Unlike all other Yale productions, the Freshman Show features a cast and crew that entirely consists of freshmen.
“We can all relate to each other,” Healy said. “When you’re working with all freshmen you know that you are all on the same playing field.”
Healy described that the combination of comedy and murder mystery in the show as an interesting pair of genres, but she believes it is possible to adapt such a plotline into a comic drama. She explained that the ensemble can take the classic elements of murder mysteries and twist them to create a more humorous story.
Erica Wachs ’18, who plays a clumsy character named Fluff, said she is especially able to contribute to the show’s comic aspects.
“Fluff is interesting because she is the one who discovers the body” Wachs said. “But she is slow on the uptaking. She always makes the realizations two scenes after the rest of the cast.”
Gabriella Borter ’18, the show’s dramaturg, said she had to research various accents and costume designs as well as the Cape Cod atmosphere in preparation for the show.
Erin Hebert ’18, who plays gift shop owner Nina Puckle, said she thinks the show will be a change of pace for the Yale theater community because most on-campus productions are not nearly as whimsical and lighthearted. Wachs also highlighted the allusions the play makes to names and experiences from Kelly’s own life.
“The man in the play who was murdered is Morton Pitkin,” Wachs said. “Someone within my suite was walking through the Grove Street Cemetery, and they found a tombstone that said, ‘Pitkin.” Then I just thought, well, that’s Tim Kelly for you, getting all of his inspiration at Yale.”
Last year’s freshman show was “Arcadia” by Tom Stoppard.