Cold Case Haunts Inspector In “Cat’s Cradle” At Sierra Madre Playhouse

Fran Syverson

by Fran Syverson

Sometimes a “cold case” can haunt a detective to where it becomes an obsession. For all the crimes he may have solved successfully, the unsolved one is what preys on his mind. Especially as he sees his career winding down.

Such a cold case is what brings Inspector Jack Frost to the English village of Waverton Magna. Twelve years prior, he was unable to solve the kidnapping of a baby boy. Now, at the brink of his retirement, he returns with fresh leads on this cold case, and a feverish desire to redeem his reputation. But he’s totally unprepared for the icy reception he gets. He had hoped to find new clues as he talks with the townsfolk, but no one will talk.

Except for elderly Miss Merton. She talks sometimes, and then realizes she shouldn’t have. Stephanie Dunnam gives a strong depiction of Miss Merton’s befuddlement and her naiveté as she blurts out tidbits, then runs for cover.

David Calhoun designed the set and lighting, creating the ambience of a small-town inn. The pigeon-holed shelf for mail and keys behind the desk, a black dial phone, an old-fashioned bell to announce newcomers, a local map on the wall—all convey a low-key hominess. Sam and his wife Peggy as the innkeepers are at odds about how to handle the nosy intruder.  Sam (James B. Harnagel) fiercely refuses to rent a room to Frost. Amy Moorman conveys Peggy’s conflicting emotions about the kidnapping and also about Frost, with whom she’d had a brief romantic dalliance when he’d first investigated the kidnapping.   

Women central to both the wedding and the long-ago tragedy are the baby’s mother and older sister. Melanie Rockwell’s manner and garb convey an aloof, controlled Pamela who is dismayed that her daughter’s wedding day is being tarnished by the Inspector’s arrival. April Morrow is the essence of bridal femininity as Sarah, but becomes ever more distraught as inquiries proceed.

Robert Pescovitz aptly keeps the action focused himself as the feisty, hard-drinking Inspector who doggedly tries to pierce the conspiracy of silence cloaking the town’s secrets. He finds an unexpected ally in Bob (Stephen Weston), publisher of the local newspaper. Since his paper seems never to have any real news, he smells a story coming with the reopened investigation. He hangs around the inn, where he’s almost as unwelcome as Frost. That’s because he’d once hoped to be the man claiming Sarah’s hand. Instead, she’s marrying the wealthy nephew of Sir Charles Cresswell. Rees Pugh puts both pompousness and Brit reserve into his characterization of Cresswell.

Despite all the intrigue, “Cat’s Cradle” brings laughs a-plenty to lighten the tension, along with some entangled love affairs to decipher.

So now the scene is set, and we, along with the Inspector, try to divine who the culprit might have been. As the mystery finally unravels, we may find ourselves as surprised as he is. But wait!—hold your breath until the final ironic closure on this long-secreted cold case!

 “Cat’s Cradle” by Leslie Sands is directed at the Sierra Madre Playhouse by Bill Mesnik and produced by Barbara Schofield and Estelle Campbell. Angela Sonner is stage manager and also sound operator. Assistant stage manager and light operator is Mike Dessin. Deborah Ross-Sullivan is the dialect coach.

From the Inspector’s hat to Peggy’s apron to Cresswell’s formal attire, costuming again reflects the deft touches we’ve come to expect from Lois Tedrow.

Stephen Weston is sound designer.  Poster art is by Brandon Bernard and Kate Vandevender. Anne Marie Atwan manages the properties. Along with Ward Calaway, the construction crew includes Calhoun, Sonner and Westron. Geoffrey Wade did the production photography, and Philip Sokoloff  the publicity.

“Cat’s Cradle” will continue at the Sierra Madre Playhouse weekends through June 4. Curtain time is 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2:30 p.m. for Sunday matinees. Admission is $20 general, $17 for seniors (65+) and students (13-17), and $12 for children 12 and under.

The Sierra Madre Playhouse is located at 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre. City lots offer free parking. Make it a special occasion with pre- or post-theater dining at local restaurants on Baldwin Avenue and Sierra Madre Boulevard. For ticket reservations or more information, phone (626) 355-4318, or visit the website,, for online ticketing. For reservations for groups of 15 or more people, phone (626) 836-2125.