Browse reviews

FringeReview USA 2023

You Have the Right to Remain Dead

Lend Me a Theatre

Genre: Theatre

Venue: Nashua Center for the Performing Arts


Low Down

In Pat Cook’s ‘You Have the Right to Remain Dead’, a southern murder mystery evening is interrupted by the actual murder of a cast member, and both the audience and the theatre company must find the killer. 


We are told at the offset of ‘You Have the Right to Remain Dead’, by a narrator prone to going off-script, to observe everything, to not rely on our first impressions, and to trust no one. This advice is prescient, as it is this very narrator who turns up murdered during the performance. The Southern murder mystery grinds to a halt as the cast, the crew, and even we the audience are considered suspects for the murder of Harnell Chesterton, the man playing the narrator who seemed to have a complicated relationship with all involved. Luckily there is a detective on hand, Officer Bainbrige played with natural presence by Jon Mason. Throughout the evening, he and the theatre company members, with the help of the audience, use clues and observations to find the killer before he or she manages to escape. 

The script, by Pat Cook, offers some Tennessee Williams-esque Southern heat and drawl in the play-within-a-play, which the company has a lot of fun with. The patriarch, Big Daddy, played with Boss Hog accuracy by Jon Cares, is changing his will, leaving the members of his family and household with a motive for his eventual murder. Of course, things go awry, and instead of the stage murder of Big Daddy, the cast is met with the dead body of Harnell Chesterton. From here, the company plays the actors with a more natural air, tattling and turning on each other as it becomes clear the identity of the murderer must be one of them. The cast plays off each other well. Laura Hogland and Erin Wilcox have noticeable chemistry both in the ‘play’ and as the actors. Rob Lalime has good physicality as a hopeful journalist turned actor, and Sean Damboise adds comic relief as the often clueless Ajax. Gretchen Solomon as Leigh provides a seriousness of character, and the ensemble is deftly rounded out by the director (Mary Fraser), fidgety crew-member (Jenna Thibault), and aforementioned elastic-faced narrator. The delivery of dialogue could stand to be a bit snappier, which would aid the slightly bloated runtime of two and a half hours. The cast was not always successfully comfortable with the audience participation bits, but what landed did so with a great response. As this was the first night of the performances, I have no doubt that this able company will only improve over the course of their remaining shows.

Lend Me a Theatre is a non-profit theatre company that has been operating out of various theatres in the New Hampshire area since 2013. It is populated by, as director Scott Rollins says, volunteers who want a second full-time job they don’t get paid for. This is certainly a labor of love, and that shines through in each stage of this prediction. There are three more chances to see ‘You Have the Right to Remain Dead’, including a Meals on Wheels benefit show on November 11th, and they promise a solid evening of entertainment fit for the whole family.

Also- I am not a food critic, but I have to mention the dinner portion of the show, provided by Soel Sistas catering. The southern-style fare provided for the southern-style show was just the ticket to start off the evening on the right foot.