Two act full-length murder mystery/black comedy/psychological thriller
Set in modern day, rural Connecticut
Produced 2002/2003 at San Francisco’s The New Conservatory Theatre.
Workshops/Staged Readings, New York City, 2003, Thorney Theatre, Palm Springs, 2009
A full length contemporary two act comedy/psychological mystery thriller with 3 male and 2 female (or instead 1 other male) characters and one set that changes internally into two more sets in the second act. The play takes place initially during the winter Holiday Season inside the rural Connecticut A-frame vacation house of longtime best-selling mystery writer Jonathan Cavendish who has allegedly committed suicide there.
Jonathan's long estranged son, Cas Cavendish, Jonathan's long divorced wife, Judith Cavendish, and Jonathan's frumpy secretary, Arlen Saunders have taken a Christmas holiday drive together up to the house. They've been directed by a codicil to the mystery writer's will to look into the eponymous Bombay Trunk. Inside one of the many little drawers of the eccentric piece of furniture they are to find the rest of their legacy from Jonathan, although this part of the inheritance is "not of pecuniary value." The local sheriff, Dab Everson, a fan of the dead author, is already in the vacation house, searching for clues, when they arrive, and hides to observe them.
So begins Felice Picano's roller-coaster ride of a play that out-sleuths Sleuth and out-Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of An Author. Using a series of established theatrical forms and genre's from the last half century and twisting them to his own devious ends, Picano brilliantly shuffles and then plays out one possible scenario inherent in the situation after another, as though they were deals of an increasingly intense and baffling card game. The Bombay Trunk progresses from murder mystery, to black comedy, to family drama, to of control truth-or-dare-game, through identity-questioning, and drama-as-therapy, right up to the final, unexpected, setting and revelation.
In staged readings, actors fell in love with the rich, complex and ever-changing characters. Cas Cavendish is a handsome young man, intelligent, suave, sly, devastatingly sexy, and open to pretty much any kind of relationship as long as he benefits most from it. Altogether a smooth operator, Cas' upbringing in the center of wealth and privilege has meant that he never lets little matters like ethics and morality get in his way whenever he wants something or someone for himself.
Elegant, beautiful, middle-aged Judith Cavendish, Cas' mother, is equally charming and disarming. And like her son, she's open to virtually any thing or any person who will divert her, give her pleasure, and/or make her even richer than she already is.
Frumpy-looking secretary, Arlen Saunders seems at first to be Jonathan's-protector now that he is not around to protect his work and reputation. But is she really the homely looking, loyal doormat she seems to be? Or does she have an even bigger game to play than the others, at even greater hazard?
Physically prepossessing Connecticut State sheriff, Dab Everson is also more than the sincere young mystery aficionado he at first seems. But what exactly is his relationship to the others? And what's he really concealing?
All the character's personalities, indeed their very selves, are up for constant re-evaluation, as the play reshuffles into yet another dark variation.
Emotionally gripping and intellectually engrossing, The Bombay Trunk has its world premiere at San Francisco's New Conservatory Theater on November 9, 2002 and enjoyed a solid run during its revival in 2009.