Lifeline Theatre’s stage has been something of a home away from home for dapper hobbyist detective Lord Peter Wimsey over the past few decades. The mystery-unraveling sleuth protagonist of many of English author Dorothy L. Sayers’s crime novels has appeared in four different adaptations by Frances Limoncelli at the company, including this 2002 script dramatizing Sayers’s debut full-length work of fiction.
On the same day a high-profile financier disappears, a freshly barbered corpse is discovered in a bathtub propped up and styled to resemble the missing man. Drawn to the oddity of the case, Wimsey (William Anthony Sebastian Rose II) teams up with his inspector confidante (John Drea) and manservant (Scott Danielson) to chase down clues that reveal a tangled scheme of business and medical malfeasance. Jess Hutchinson’s cast leans into the buddy-comedy quippiness and droll soliloquies inspired by Sayers’s style of storytelling, and there’s plenty of fun to be had with this charming cast of actors throwing around outsize English dialects and broad character choices.
But even with a closely kept ear, the puzzle that drives the story evolves pretty quickly from intricate to inscrutable. Unlike in a novel, where world-building details have some room to breathe, the story here becomes strained underneath a torrent of proper nouns and red herrings, as well as arcane character backstories that are made only more confusing by double- and triple-casting. Clocking in at close to two and a half hours, Hutchinson’s production builds a strong case for reading Sayers’s books—the mystery of whether or not their stories fit onstage, though, remains unsolved. v