Death by Design

by  Rob Urbinati

Full Length Play, Comedy  /  4m, 4f

What happens when you mix the brilliant wit of Noël Coward with the intricate plotting of Agatha Christie? Set during a weekend in an English country manor in 1932, Death by Design is a delightful and mysterious “mash-up” of two of the greatest English writers of all time.   

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Death by Design

by  Rob Urbinati

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  • Cast Size

    Cast Size

    4m, 4f
  • Duration

    Duration

    120 minutes (2 hours)
  • SubGenre

    Subgenre

    Farce, Adaptations (Literature), Mystery/Thriller
  • Accolades

    Accolades

    Not Applicable
  • Suggested Use

    Suggested Use

    • Cutting Approved for Competition
  • Audience

    Target Audience

    • Appropriate for all audiences
    • Adult
    • Senior
    • Teen (Age 14 - 18)

Additional Info

What happens when you mix the brilliant wit of Noël Coward with the intricate plotting of Agatha Christie? Set during a weekend in an English country manor in 1932, Death by Design is a delightful and mysterious “mash-up” of two of the greatest English writers of all time. Edward Bennett, a playwright, and his wife, Sorel Bennett, an actress, flee London and head to Cookham after a disastrous opening night. But various guests arrive unexpectedly – a conservative politician, a fiery socialist, a nearsighted ingénue, a zany modern dancer – each with a long-held secret. When one of the guests is murdered, it’s left to Bridgit, the feisty Irish maid with a macabre interest in homicide, to solve the crime. Death by Design is more than homage – it’s a new classic. 

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Reviews


"Death by Design is a wonderful new comedy, peopled with vivid, fascinating characters. It merges wit, sophistication and even pratfalls into a medley of humor and fun. Playwright Rob Urbinati must have had as much fun writing this comedy as the audience has in savoring it." - Houston Press

"The play is called Death by Design, but don’t expect it to unlock the mystery to designing the perfect murder, unless the weapon of choice is laughter. Playwright Rob Urbinati has designed a recipe for fun that’s perfect for livening up the dead of winter: Combine one part murder, two parts mayhem, and season with a hearty dose of clever wit […] Think Noël Coward meets Agatha Christie, and you’ll have some idea what to expect. Both served as inspiration for Death by Design. The result is a smart play, masquerading as an all-out farce. Death by Design is chock-full of puns, one-liners, off-the-wall references and keen jokes that one viewing alone could never fully glean all its comic gems." – Maine Sunday Telegram

"I’m a big fan of Noël Coward, England’s greatest comic playwright of the 20th century. Death by Design is intentionally written in Coward’s style, complete with interesting, over-drawn characters, brilliant comic repartee and wonderfully incisive social commentary. Plus there’s the Agatha Christie element: a country estate full of mysterious guests and isolated by a snipped telephone wire. Death by Design is definitely a major must-see." - The Forecaster

"These characters have some great lines to deliver, particularly (of course) playwright Edward, in whose mouth the snarky urbanities are like whiskeyed butter. Playwright Urbinati gives him and the others a fun array of verbal flourishes - rhymed character names are an ongoing gag - and the conversation takes some entertaining digs at theater itself, as well as the archetypes of the British class system. And oh, yes, the murder. Of course it's less a mortal emergency than a vehicle for everyone's lampoonery, especially once they've drained the brandy and moved on to gin." - The Portland Phoenix

Keywords

Love, Marriage, Politics

Considerations

Performing Groups

  • College Theatre / Student
  • Community Theatre
  • Dinner Theatre
  • Professional Theatre
  • Reader's Theatre
  • Large Stage
  • Blackbox / Second Stage /Fringe Groups

Cautions

  • Artboard 3 Gun Shots

License details

  • Minimum Fee: $75 per performance

Production

Details

  • Time Period: 1930s
  • Duration: 120 minutes (2 hours)
  • Setting: The action of the play takes place in the at living room of the Bennett’s house at Cookham in 1932.
  • Additional Features: Physical Comedy
  • Features / Contains: Period Costumes

Music

  • Musical Style: N/A (Not a musical)
  • Vocal Demands: N/A (Not a musical)
  • Chorus Size: N/A (Not a musical)

Casting

4m, 4f
BRIDGIT - the maid; Irish, crabby, warm-hearted, fifties
JACK - the chauffer; Cockney, charming, clever, twenties
EDWARD BENNETT - the playwright; urbane, vain, thirties/forties
SOREL BENNETT - the actress; glamorous, daffy, thirties/forties
WALTER PEARCE - the politician; stiff, conservative, thirties/forties
ERIC - the radical; emphatic, fiery, twenties
VICTORIA VAN ROTH - the Bohemian; intense, artistic, any age
ALICE - the visitor; sweet, shy, twenties
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Cast Attributes

  • Non-Traditional casting

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Authors

Rob Urbinati

Rob Urbinati was a Theatre Consultant for Home Box Office in New York City, and has directed over fifty plays at theatres, colleges and universities across the country. Mr. Urbinati’s first play as a writer, Hazelwood Jr. High, was directed by Scott Elliott for the New Group. A scene from the play is published in Smith ...

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Death by Design was originally produced at Houston Family Arts Center, Houston, Texas (Bob Clark, Executive Director; Teri Clark, Artistic Director; Mario Garza, Producing Director) September 9 - 11, 2011, under the direction of Lisa Garza.

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