Thirty years before a certain caped crusader commenced his crime-fighting career, a cloaked criminal commandeered a comparable chiropteran cognomen for his crooked capers. We refer of course to “The Bat” — the masked mastermind whose identity is revealed only in the final moments of the 1920 hit stage play that bears his name.
In Theatre 40’s elaborately staged revival, this classically constructed mystery-comedy by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood features all the requisite whodunit tropes: a dark and stormy night, an isolated mansion filled with suspects and, naturally, a mounting body count.
Adapted from Rinehart’s novel, “The Circular Staircase,” the narrative focuses on amateur sleuth Cornelia Van Gorder (Veronica Cartwright) tackling a series of seemingly unrelated puzzles involving a massive bank embezzlement, a murder, incompetent cops and a secret room in the stately manor she’s rented for the summer — all amid news reports of the disguised desperado who flaunts his signature bat logo.
The Bat actually occupies little stage time in his masked persona, though suspicions mount that he’s one of the 10 shady characters who parade across Jeff G. Rack’s lavishly detailed drawing-room set.