Audience participation

Ripley Library Players to perform ‘Murder on the Petulant Express’

At top right, Danny Root soliloquizes as baseball player Kid Root. Behind him are Laurel Adams as opera singer Arianna Altamonte, Michael Rowe as Dingo Dugan, and Rhonda Thompson as Christine Agatha.

WESTFIELD — Murder mystery fans are invited to catch a ride and maybe a killer on the Petulant Express as the Ripley Library Players return to the stage after a three-year hiatus.

The “curtain” goes up at 6 p.m. this Saturday, as Ripley Library presents “Murder on the Petulant Express,” an audience participation theater experience at Noble Winery on Hardscrabble Road in Westfield.

The murder mystery was an annual event, put on each year by the Ripley Library Players. The shows were put on hold after the 2014 performance for several personal reasons, including the death of director Teresa Testrake’s father.

“We are back,” Testrake said. “Everyone was very excited to be doing this again. … The players have worked extremely hard. Their dedication to the library, their community and the play has been outstanding.”

The play opens as chief homicide investigator Lawrence Law, played by Zachary Mota, introduces the case to the audience. The year is 1937, and the characters are traveling on the Petulant Express, a new streamlined train designed by business tycoon Peter Petulant. After a short stop in Akron, Ohio, on the train’s regular journey between New York City and Chicago, someone makes a “permanent alteration” to Petulant’s career. He is found stabbed to death in his plush Presidential car at the rear of the train.

At bottom right, Teresa Testrake, director of the Ripley Library players, shares her comments with the cast after rehearsing Act 1 . Also pictured are Danny Rowe who plays the baseball player Kid Root. Seated are Jade Shampoe and Emerald Winch who play Porter No. 1 and Porter No. 2. The Ripley Library will present an audience participation theater experience at Noble Winery on Hardscrabble Road in Westfield this Saturday.

One by one, the characters introduce themselves to the audience and share some facts about their connection to Peter Petulant. In the second act, however, the characters share secrets about each other, insinuating why one of the other characters must be the murderer.

After this, the characters mingle with the audience who are invited to ask four questions per table of each character in a attempt to ferret out the guilty party. Each guest then chooses who they feel is the guilty party before the actual killer is revealed in the final scene.

There is no shortage of motives for Peter’s murder. John Hamels plays Franz Fassmacher, a German brew master whose special lagers have made him a worldwide force in the brewing industry. Rhonda Thompson portrays Christine Agatha, an English mystery writer who is known for her best-selling whodunits. It is rumored that she sometimes personally tests the accuracy of her plots.

Pete Ryan takes the role of Thurm Stroman, a southern senator whose patriotism supposedly dictates all of his actions. Amy Neer plays Tonya Fennie, a Norwegian figure skater who won a gold medal at last year’s Olympics and is rumored to have signed a movie contract.

Michael Rowe presents the character of Dingo Dugan, an Australian crocodile hunter whose personality seems to mirror that of his favorite reptile. Laurel Adams portrays Arianna Altamonte, an Italian opera singer who is known to have the ability to shatter glass with her high notes.

Danny Rowe swings in as Kid Root, a baseball player who was recently traded from the New York Taxis to the Chicago Wet Sox, but he is displeased with the trade. Jan Culp sews up the cast as Francine Cooper, a fashion designer whose creations receive rave reviews around the world.

Additional characters include Jacob Rowe who plays the Messenger, Jade Shampoe as Porter No. 1 and Emerald Winch as Porter No. 2.

Tickets for the event are $15, which includes not only the performance, but an array of homemade appetizers and a complementary glass of wine.