When slave guide Steven Bishop (John Nyrere Frazier) opens the play by bellowing from the back of the audience, it becomes clear "Death By Darkness" is going to be unlike anything you've every seen before at Pioneer Playhouse. Ingeniously crafted and superbly executed, the murder-mystery is among the best works I've seen, not just on the outdoor stage but on any stage, really.
"Some folks can't take the dark. The dark makes everyone - makes them naked ... before God," says Bishop to the audience, which serves as an implied tour group he's guiding through Mammoth Cave in 1842.
Boy, does he have that right.
After the play's lively and innovative introduction, we're placed in the middle of one of Bishop's tours as the caving party enters the Star Chamber of the Western Kentucky cave system. Each of the spelunking curiosity-seekers on the trip - budding reporter Jack Andrews (Luke Baldridge), farmer Squire Calloway (Mike McRee), preacher Horace Mallory (Robert G. Hess), and bickering Brit couple Catherine and John Huffman (Patricia Hammond and Nick Allen) - slowly finds their many layers unraveling when confronted with the darkness of the cave. Their unhinging is furthered by the appearance of a young tuberculosis patient named Ophelia (Maggie Robbins) and Dr. Croghan (Jeff Besselman), her physician and owner of the cave - not to mention a mysterious death.