Mystery at Shady Acres is a mystery-comedy that was performed in 2007 by the Cornerstone Thespian Society and was produced by special arrangement with Pioneer Drama Service, Inc. Englewood, CO. An interactive version was re-edited and re-released online in 2012.
"Stop it! Stop it! You're ruining everything!"
The film begins with the daily routines of the hotel's owner, Miss Henrietta Clifford, as she makes sure that the three maids and the bellhop Basil finish their work, since the wealthy and famous Edward and Blanche Fairfax are coming to stay at the hotel. As Henrietta Clifford and the maids head off, Basil greets a mysterious man that is simply referred to as Mr. X. Despite some banter, Mr. X gets situated in his modest room.
Just then, the elderly Brighthams arrive, hauling with them loads of bags. Basil, mistaking them for the Fairfaxes, gets excited and pampers them. However, he gets a talking-down from Miss Clifford, who directs them to their actual room.
The character of Stanley Larson is introduced as a playboy that hangs around with the maids, but gets in trouble with Miss Clifford. He soon sees Mr. X, but does not recognize him.
After Basil ducks behind the desk, Audrey Rochester arrives, only to be greeted by a sneezing Basil. Miss Clifford is summoned to take her bags, but this soon results in an argument. While they banter, Stanley shows Audrey to her room.
After this, Edward and Blanche Fairfax arrive at the hotel, much to the excitement of the hotel staff. Edward is happy, but Blanche is less than thrilled. After signing in, they are guided to their suite. They soon return, only for Edward to encounter Audrey. Apparently, Edward and Audrey were once engaged, but Edward's family forced him to marry into wealth, thus breaking off the engagement. Audrey feels some resentment, but states that she would rather be with Stanley. Afterward, Basil and the maids try to fulfill the Brightham's request for more toiletries, but are cut off by Stew LaRoach, who sets up rat traps around the lobby.
Around 11 o'clock that evening, The three maids talk, then head off. Edward and Blanche return from dinner in Shadyville, but Edward forgets his pocket watch in the taxi. Going back for it, Edward leaves. Blanche sits down as Greta brings out a cup of tea. Blanche accepts it, drinks it, and falls asleep. At the strike of 11 o'clock, a disembodied hand grabs Blanche's diamond necklace. Basil, working the night shift, wakes up and finds Blanche asleep.
The next morning, the Shadyville police force, led by Chief Wickfield, talk to the hotel staff and guests. However, one of the officers, in a latent manner, accuses Edward of the theft. Insulted, he storms off. At this point, the four officers look over the evidence from the crime scene that they found. They scour the lobby for more clues, which results in the arrival of Detective Philip Thorton and Emma Reid. Apparently, Edward hired them to solve the case in response to his rude treatment at questioning. Their arrival is not welcomed with open arms, but in the spirit of friendly competition, Thorton invents a contest. If the Thorton Detective Agency solves the case first, he will advertise his agency at the Shadyville Police Station. If the Shadyville police force solves the case first, Thorton must pay for the police's coffee and doughnuts for the next year. Reluctantly, Wickfield agrees. However, behind their backs, the Brighthams stole all of their evidence, leaving them to interrogate the hotel staff and guests.
After several interviews, Dorrit reports that Mr. X left the hotel. On top of this, the Brighthams are caught for their thievery and Stew LaRoach quits, leaving Basil to blow up the kitchen while preparing lunch.
Out of options, Chief Wickfield sits down, alone in the lobby. Dorrit invites her to join them at the café in town, and Wickfield agrees. Just then, she notices the audience for the first time. She invites them to use their knowledge of what has happened and give clues on who might have taken the necklace. She heads off.
The viewers are then invited to explore the hotel. Throughout the hotel are clues to who might have done it, while newspapers scattered around talk about New England's Notorious Arsonist. However, in the staff lounge, someone locks the viewers in, forcing them to bust out through another door. After exploring for clues, the viewers fill out their informant tip sheet.
When Chief Wickfield returns, she questions the audience about what they have seen and found. Taking this evidence into account, Chief Wickfield heads off to continue the investigation. However, right behind her is Detective Thorton, who tries his best at asking the audience questions. However, he is interrupted by Emma Reid, who declares that she is leaving the Thorton Detective Agency. Thorton tries to reason with her, but she will have none of it.
That evening, Blanche insists that she and Edward leave, but Edward and Miss Clifford keep her at the hotel. Mr. X suddenly returns, stating that all will be revealed. Thorton returns and declares that he has solved the case. Inviting the guests and staff into the lobby, he boasts about his detective agency, then promptly accuses Basil of the crime, solely because he was the only one everyone knew was in the lobby with Blanche when the crime occurred. He has not found the diamond necklace, but he urges Basil to find it for him.
After they head off, the officers arrive to clarify the solution. While taking money into account, jealousy became the primary motive that leads them to rightfully accuse Audrey Rochester of the crime. She is taken away, then Mr. X steps in to clarify the arsonist. A S.A. initialed handkerchief belongs to Stanley Larson, or Stanley L. Arson, who was in cahoots with Miss Clifford (who locked the viewers in the staff lounge during intermission) to burn down the hotel so that she could collect the insurance money. Miss Clifford is arrested and Stanley, who tries to flee, is killed by Mr. X.
Thorton returns with Basil, but is soon unraveled by his own ineptitude. Edward fires him, and he must now pay for the officers' coffee and doughnuts. After all is said and done, the hotel is now closed and the staff is unemployed. However, Edward hires them to help around their house. After they leave, Stew LaRoach returns to the lobby, wondering where everyone went.
Late in 2006, the Cornerstone Thespian Society was in the midst of picking two plays to put on that spring (one for each class). While around eighty scripts were ordered, including The Last Gladiator, Unwrapped, and Chateau La Roach, this one was picked for its simplicity in staging. The older class performed The Prince and the Pauper.
However, to make the play more relevant for an American audience and to make it easier for the cast to perform, Shady Acres Hotel was moved from England to Vermont and Edward and Blanche were made British. The play also featured seven members of an English Tea Garden tour, but they not only complicated things in an unnecessary way, they were entirely pointless, as they were not even listed as suspects in the official informant tip sheet. The only reference to this left in the final production is a sign outside the hotel and a line spoken by Ingrid Brightham.
To make up for this loss, several jokes were added throughout to both lighten the mood and to establish more possible motives for each suspect. However, another issue, unrelated to the play's humor, arose when money from this production's budget had disappeared. Confused, director Teresa Bermudez contacted other managers and crew members to find out what had happened. Linda Maddux eventually told her that The Prince and the Pauper director Valoris Peterson had moved funds from the budget for Mystery at Shady Acres over to her own production, as cost overruns from The Rented Christmas had caused her to go overbudget. While upset, there was nothing Teresa could do, which resulted in the recycling of set pieces from The Rented Christmas to help create the lobby of Shady Acres.
Through all of this, the play stayed on track for its May 10 debut, which it achieved. It was released on DVD a year later.
In 2012, as part of the From the Vaults collection, it was announced that this film would be completely re-designed for an online re-release. This included adding the intermission game Shady Acres Super Sleuth and upgrading the sound and video quality. While it dropped the From the Vaults branding, the film was re-released that August.
In its initial performance, the play was highly praised, selling out at every single performance. For comparison, The Prince and the Pauper failed to attract audiences and bombed financially. For its 2012 re-release however, it got far less attention, despite all of the changes that were made. However, some of the performances were praised in this re-release.
- Continuity Error: In all of the close-up shots, the large portrait over the fireplace is that of Judy Barringer. However, in the wide shots, it is a portrait of a Kilroy doodle from Kilroy Was Here!.
- Edward Fairfax (Daniel Bermudez)
- Blanche Fairfax (Felicia Nau)
- Audrey Rochester (Gabriella Iacovetti)
- Stanley Larson (Kyle Monroe)
- Albert Brightham (Jeremy Babcock)
- Ingrid Brightham (Rachel Ellis)
- Mr. X (Adam Shefton)
- Miss Henrietta Clifford (Sarah Haller)
- Basil (Andrew Bermudez)
- Stew LaRoach (Cody Ehlen)
- Greta Whyte (Esther Silvers)
- Beth Morgan (Jessica Hawley)
- Lavinia Crawford (Julianna Hollister)
- Mr. Rogers (cut from film)
- Cathy (cut from film)
- Federica Frumpet (cut from film)
- Patricia (cut from film)
- Lois Banks (cut from film)
- Miranda Banks (cut from film)
- Myrna Werther (cut from film)
- Chief Della Wickfield (Sabrina Lewis)
- Lieutenant Thelma Dorrit (Breanna Whitley)
- Sergeant Farley O'Doyle (Brandon Maddux)
- Officer Eleanor Black (Lauren Isbell)
- Detective Philip Thornton (Daniel Ellis)
- Emma Reid (Jordon Nelson)
- Teresa Bermudez - Director; Producer; Cameraman
- Michelle R. Davis - Writer
- Sarah Haller - Actor
- Andrew Bermudez - Actor; Editor; Sound Mixer; Composer
- Julianna Hollister - Actor
- Esther Silvers - Actor
- Jessica Hawley - Actor
- Adam Shefton - Actor
- Rachel Ellis - Actor
- Jeremy Babcock - Actor
- Kyle Monroe - Actor
- Gabriella Iacovetti - Actor
- Daniel Bermudez - Actor
- Felicia Nau - Actor
- Cody Ehlen - Actor
- Lauren Isbell - Actor
- Brandon Maddux - Actor
- Breanna Whitley - Actor
- Sabrina Lewis - Actor
- Daniel Ellis - Actor
- Jordon Nelson - Actor
- Daniel O'Kelly - Assistant Director
- Alex Shefton - Assistant Director
- Al Bermudez - Cameraman; Set Construction
- Paula Whitley - Stage Manager; Advisory
- Curt Freeman - Set Construction
- Judy Addeo - Chaperone Organizer
- Sandi Lewis - Prop Manager
- Georgia Walter - Catering; Clean-Up
- Pat Babcock - Production Assistant
- Linda Maddux - Budget Supervisor
- Rich Dorosh - Photography
- Jim Freeman - Photography
- Lisa Fidelibus - Make-Up and Hair Stylist
- Joshua Maddux - Key Grip
- Nic Iacovetti - Promotional Art
"Stop it! Stop it! You're ruining everything!"
Mystery at Shady Acres contains examples of the following tropes.
- The Alibi: Every suspect has some form of alibi that they tell to the police. The only alibi that is visually presented is Basil's, since he is clearly shown sleeping at the front desk during the theft and therefore could not have committed the crime.
- The Artifact: In the lobby of Shady Acres, front and center, is a fireplace with the initials J.D. on it. What do those initials stand for? They stand for John Dale because this fireplace was a recycled set piece from The Rented Christmas (though the headboard over the mantle was replaced for this production to blend into the back wall and to not make the fireplace so top-heavy). Also, Ingrid's dialogue about an English Tea Garden Tour and the accompanying sign are left over from the cut English Tea Garden Tour Group that, in the director's view, contributed nothing to the play.
- Audience? What Audience?: As Detective Philip Thorton questions the audience, his assistant Emma Reid walks in, asking him what he's doing.
- Closed Circle: Slightly subverted, since some of the characters (Edward, Blanche, and Mr. X) do leave and return to the hotel. This trope is only really invoked when the Shadyville Police Force orders all of the suspects to remain at the hotel.
- Clueless Detective: The character of Detective Philip Thorton.
- Da Chief: Chief Wickfield is a less intense version of this trope.
- Everyone Is a Suspect: With the exception of Basil, all of the hotel's staff and guests are considered suspects, even the victim, Blanche Fairfax.
- Everything's Sparkly with Jewelry: Blanche's diamond necklace allows her to flaunt her riches to everyone else.
- Evidence Scavenger Hunt: What the police and Thorton Detective Agency do when they begin hunting for clues and interrogating the hotel's staff and guests. Also, the audience does this during Shady Acres Super Sleuth.
- Exploiting the Fourth Wall: Right before and after intermission, Chief Della Wickfield uses volunteers from the audience to help her solve the mystery. Detective Thorton also does this, with humorous results.
- Fair-Play Whodunnit: The premise of the film.
- Hide the Evidence: Albert and Ingrid Brightham do this when they steal the evidence right before Detective Thorton arrives.
- Idle Rich: The characters of Edward and Blanche Fairfax.
- Instant Sedation: This happens to Blanche right before her diamond necklace is stolen, though it does take about ten seconds for the sedative to take full effect.
- It May Help You on Your Quest: As the intermission is completely interactive, there are clues and objects scattered throughout the hotel that the audience can interact with, including a key, hair pin, and scraps of paper.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: There are two instances of this. The first is when Miss Clifford describes Great Aunt Judith as, "she used to run things around here." Judy Barringer, who is depicted in the portrait, used to run the Cornerstone Thespian Society before retiring in 2005. The second instance is when Chief Wickfield mentions at the end of the play that she was able to get some extra help to solve the case. This, of course, refers to her interviewing the audience right after the intermission.
- Lethal Chef: Basil becomes this after Stew LaRoach quits.
- Locked Door: Both Mr. X's Room and the Staff Lounge are locked at the beginning of Shady Acres Super Sleuth. They require the room key and lock pick to open, respectively.
- Locked in a Room: When the audience uncovers the crates of flammable materials in the staff lounge, someone locks the door to the staff lounge, trapping the audience. It's later implied that Miss Henrietta Clifford was the one who trapped the audience.
- Mineral MacGuffin: Blanche's diamond necklace is this.
- Motive Equals Conclusive Evidence: While both parties collect a massive amount of evidence, Chief Wickfield states that Audrey Rochester's motive is the final piece of evidence that convicted her.
- Mysterious Stranger: The character of Mr. X.
- Never the Obvious Suspect: The characters of Albert and Ingrid Brightham are arrested after impulsively stealing the evidence, along with the hotel's fixtures, thus incriminating them in the eyes of the police. Naturally, they did not commit the crime.
- Ninja Prop: Though not a prop, Detective Thorton is completely aware of the music that plays whenever he appears.
- Pixel Hunt: Mostly subverted during Shady Acres Super Sleuth. However, the hair pin plays this completely straight. It's underneath the sofa in the guest lounge, and it's so small, only the most observant audience members can find it to pick it up.
- Red Herring: Albert and Ingrid Brightham's impulsive behavior.
- Scullery Maid: The film has three of these.
- Shout-Out: The large portrait hanging over the fireplace is that of former Cornerstone Thespian Society director Judy Barringer. The guest registry as seen in the lobby during the intermission game Shady Acres Super Sleuth also pays homage to Lois Banks, a character the was cut from the film.
- Team Chef: The character of Stew LaRoach.
- Undercover Cop Reveal: Mr. X has this near the end of the film.
- Special Prop: The portrait of "Great Aunt Judith" is actually a portrait of Judy Barringer, the founder of the Cornerstone Thespian Society.
- Special Prop: When Mr. X is lounging on the sofa, he is reading a Spongebob Squarepants magazine.
- Hidden Characters: Among the items in the Brightham's cases are a towel sporting an image of Scooby Doo and a Spongebob shower curtain.
- Special Prop: Inside the lobby facing the door is a dark picture hanging on the wall. This image is a CGI image of a tank created in Autodesk Maya for MEA 131 at College of the Canyons.
- Special Prop: There is a picture in the guest room of Al Bermudez's parents hanging on the wall.
- Special Prop: Hanging in the same room is a screen shot from Johnny Thunder and the Wisdom of the Ancients.
- Hidden Character: Also in the guest lounge is a picture of Nana from Space Attack.
- Hidden Characters: Many portraits hang up in the dining room, including Frederick the Frog from Freddy and Joey Teaser, the father from When Barrels Fly, and the ice fisherman from Gone Ice Fishin'.
- Special Prop: Hanging above Mr. X's bed is an image from Com 50.
- Special Prop: Though hard to make out, there is a picture in the staff lounge of the Windsor Hotel from Johnny Thunder and the Gift of the Nile.
- While Lois Banks was cut out of the film, along with the rest of the English Tea Garden tour group, a homage is paid to this character in Shady Acres Super Sleuth, since the character is listed in the guest register. Other characters listed in the guest register include Mustache Max, Patrick, and Theodore Parkington. None of the featured names, sans Stanley and the other guests in the film, are considered canon visitors to the hotel.
- The portrait of Judy Barringer was added to pay homage to her legacy. She first founded the Cornerstone Thespian Society and had since retired.
- Shady Acres Super Sleuth was added to the re-release because editor Andrew Bermudez wanted to revive the interactive intermission that the live performance had.
- The original play takes place in the 1920's. The Mustache Maniacs Film Co. version is set in the present day.
- The play's alternate title is Carats and Crumpets, alluding to the play's original British setting.