"Whodunnit" at the Costa Mesa Civic Playhouse seems to have a hard time deciding what it wants to be.
During the first act, its aim is no less than a full-tilt spoof of a drawing room mystery--the type of snickering show that offers more laughs than clues. But by the second act, it seems intent on providing the audience with a virtually unadulterated deductive game--there are some gags, but the emphasis is on solving the murder. Unfortunately, it's not a graceful mix, and the shift in gears leaves the comic tone weakened and the plot muddled. Much, if not most, of the problem, however, can be attributed to the Anthony Shaffer script.
As with any thriller, "Whodunnit" increases the tension through a series of events that culminate with a murder. Revealing too much of the plot, of course, would ruin the game. It is safe to say, though, that several arch characters turn up at an English manor and appear to be compromised by an oily, insidious blackmailer. Their vexations are augmented by a beheading in the library. Everyone has a motive, and everyone is a suspect. Like other works in this genre, there are plenty of red herrings and tricky twists to confuse and confound.