Evanston’s Drama Devils welcome diners to ... Donnaducceduccedonni’s

Donna Duccedonni’s bumbling henchwomen, Francie (Emma Liechty) and Louise (Maddi Curtis) disguise themselves in an attempt to poison a chocolate cake in neighboring restaurant Donnaducce’s during the Evanston High School Drama Devils’ latest production. (HERALD PHOTO/Sheila McGuire)

EVANSTON — Many years ago, a young couple fell in love, got married and decided to turn their mutual love of cooking and food into a business by opening a restaurant. Their love story soured when they couldn’t agree on a name for that restaurant. Should it be after his last name — Donnaducce’s — or hers — Duccedonni’s? Unable to agree, the two divorced. Decades later their respective children, Don Donnaducce and Donna Duccedonni, own and operate neighboring restaurants in New York City’s Little Italy, and they hate one another.

One day, the head chefs of the two restaurants, who also hate one another, are arguing about who makes the best chocolate cake when they stumble upon the body of Maria Rosetti, the owner of the building housing the neighboring eateries. It’s obvious she’s been murdered — by a poisoned piece of chocolate cake, in fact — but the question is, who did it?

Was it Don or Donna, both hoping to gain control of the building to put the other out of business? Was it Nino or Nina, the two cooks fighting over whose food is superior and infuriated by Maria’s unflattering critiques? How about Frankie and Louie or Francie and Louise, Don and Donna’s sadly bumbling henchmen and women? Or was it the new busboy and busgirl at each restaurant, falling for one another but unable to profess their love due to their bosses’ mutual animosity?

Theatergoers are sure to delight in unraveling the mystery at the final night of the Evanston High School Drama Devils annual dinner theater murder mystery show, “Death by Dessert,” by Nathan Hartswick, which wraps its eight-night run on Friday, Feb. 12. A Drama Devils tradition, the show this year has played to smaller audiences than years past due to COVID-19 restrictions but has gone on just the same, with dinner — featuring chocolate cake, of course — prepared by the EHS culinary department.

With so many performances, the show has featured four separate casts, giving many young actors the opportunity to showcase their skills, and their Italian accents, during every sold-out show. As always, the student actors have remained in character (though masked this year) while chatting with the audience before the show and during intermission, when diners are asked to write down who they believe did the crime. One lucky patron who correctly solves the murder is awarded a prize each night.

Directed by EHS acting instructor Erin Russell, the show has featured a cast of more than 40 in named roles, along with multiple students acting as wait staff each night, as well as dozens of students on the technical crew in charge of costumes, makeup, set design, lights and sound, props and more.

This year’s cast has included Madison Sepos, Heidi Barton, Kyrie Worthing and Zoie Young as Maria; Kyleigh Diaz, Aidan McGuire, Riley Ovard and Schuyler Green as Don Donnaducce; Tèa Cox, Brinkley Francom, Monica Voss and Aimee Skaggs as Donna Duccedonni; Amanda Webb, Jocelyn Johnson, Maria Elsen and Shanty Olivas as Nino; Kiya Cox, Bethany Mendez, Cora Hatch and Linzy Sharp as Nina; Kailand McCann, McKye Carver, Colby Jones and Keeda Hamilton as Frankie; Ethnee Swensen, Emma Liechty, Kaitlynn Bowker and Bethany Bingham as Francie; Sayge Taliercio, Morgan Chandler, Connor Culp and Carlyn Skaggs as Louie; Bailey Purcell, Maddi Curtis, Molly Russell and Kristi Johnson as Louise; Marquel Hawkins, Gage Beachler, Dillon Payne and Luke Benton as Busboy; and Brooke Phillips, Brooklyn Easton, Ruby Ojeda and Morgan Blair as Busgirl.

Stage managers are Tèa Cox, Caily Davis, Alana Roper and Dean Lester and publicity and house managers are Spencer Lester and Naomi Munoz. Technical crew members include Caily Davis, Sam Nielsen, Paris Martin and Stormy Potter on makeup; Hunter Wirick, Tayler Davis and Quinn Stokes on lights; Alexandria Likes, Serina Castognia and Sofia Herrera on sound; and Sarah Hutchinson and Austin Lensch on props. Russell’s fourth-hour introduction to technical theater class was responsible for set design.

Next up for the Drama Devils is the annual spring musical, which is a combined project of the theater and vocal departments. The musical is scheduled for May 6-8. Stay tuned the week of Feb. 15 for the announcement of which musical the students will be bringing to the stage.

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