"Death by Chocolate" - by Paul Freed - Gateway Players (Southbridge, MA.) - REVIEW

(Cover Photo: The CAST of Paul Freed's "DEATH BY CHOCOLATE" froGateway Players in Southbridge, MA. now playing through March 3, 2024. Photo Credit David Corkum)

Kevin T. Baldwin 

METRMag Reviewer 

# 774-242-6724

"Well, looks can be deceiving. I'm sure that none of us are who we appear to be on the outside. Watch and see."

                              - ("Lady Riverdale") / Paul Freed

Gateway Players

Presents Paul Freed's


Written by Paul Freed

Directed by Mikey Dearn

Produced by Eric Hart

Cast Includes: Dawn Sedlier as "Meadowbrook Hostess and Vox in the Box," Deb Ostiguy as "Edith Chiles," Matt Sedlier as "Ed Parlor" (and briefly "Henry Meadowbrook"), Jennifer Stockdale as "Lady Riverdale," Brigid Thomas Bachand as "Dyslexia," Patrick Bracken as "Jon Stone," Greg Glanville as "Ralph Deadwood," Tey Gallipeau as "Margaret Daniels," Stephen Jean as "Alfred Mellox,' Deb Hollet as "Sweet Pea Meadowbrook," Peter Amaral as "Dick Simmering," Cassidy Shaw as "Anne"

Additional Creative Team:

Stage Manager - Erin Morin; Set Construction - Shawn Corkum, Mikki Smith & David Corkum; Bookcase Construction - Allen Adams; Technical Designer - David Corkum; Set Painter - Cynthia Keane; Exterior Painter - Simone Germaine; Props - Lynn Boucher; Costumes - Cast; Stage Crew - Ducati Sedlier; Lighting Tech - Ed Humphries; Sound Tech - Lynn Boucher; Photography - David Corkum; Front Cover - Tey Gallipeau; Tickets - Stephanie Ruggiere; House - Chris McTigue


February 23, 2024 through March 3, 2024

(Contact Venue for Exact Dates and Times)

Performances to be held at Fellowship Hall of Elm Street Congregational Church, 61 Elm Street in Southbridge, MA. Entrance is on Park Street (around corner).


Online credit card ticket sales are available at www.gatewayplayers.org

For more information call 508-764-4531 or visit www.gatewayplayers.org 


Contact Venue for Most Updated COVID-19 Safety Protocols and Information.

Gateway Players serves up a deliciously dark comedy murder-mystery,  "DEATH BY CHOCOLATE" and it is fun from the very beginning.

Written by Paul Freed and directed for Gateway by Mikey Dearn, the comedy takes place at "Meadowbrook Health Resort" where staff seems to be dying at an alarming rate.

After the apparent suicide of owner Henry Meadowbrook, the new owner, Lady Riverdale (Jennifer Stockdale) has hired Jon Stone (Patrick Bracken) as the health resort's new manager. She wants Stone to make sure Meadowbrook's death is kept quiet for their planned grand re-opening.

Lady Riverdale, ironically, is also owner of "Lady Riverdale Chocolates" and has a multitude of secrets from her past which will soon come to light as the play continues.

The staff of "Meadowbrook Health Resort" are presented as suspects, one by one, as we first meet Dyslexia (Brigid Thomas Bachand) assistant to both Lady Riverdale and Jon Stone, who seems to serve as a stabilizing presence for her employers.

We also are introduced to famed chef, Edith Chiles (Deb Ostiguy), of whom Stone is an ardent admirer.

Ostiguy does quite well in channeling her best wacky "Julia Child" impersonation for the part. 

There is also the despicable gym manager, Ralph Deadwood (Greg Glanville) who has more blackmail than weight training on his mind. 

Glanville is very good throughout playing the loutish antagonist Deadwood, for whom no one will find themselves rooting at any point in the proceedings.

There is also Alfred Mellox (Stephen Jean), a subdued, trusted 'man servant' to the late Mr. Meadowbrook and head of the entire maintenance staff at Meadowbrook. 

Jean is excellent as the reserved and exemplary butler-ish Mellox who, much like every other suspect, also harbors a deep secret.

Then we meet a "Richard Simmons" clone, Dick Simmering (no, really, that's his name), as played exuberantly well by Peter Amaral. What his secret is...well, I'm not sure. But what isn't a secret is just how funny Amaral is in the character.

Rounding out the staff is Meadowbrook nurse, Anne (in a hilarious performance by Cassidy Shaw) who self medicates by popping pills as if they are "M&Ms."

Stone tries to align his staff so that everyone understands the importance of keeping things "normal" - at least, as normal as can be expected under the gravy of grave circumstances.

However, the gravy of graveness thickens as two more deaths occur and now Stone must contend with multiple deaths, two of them involving some of the above suspects and resulting from a tainted box of chocolates.

Helping Stone in his pursuit of truth is playwright Ed Parlor (Matt Sedlier) a guest of Lady Riverdale at the resort. He is actually working on a play that parallels the events at Meadowbrook Health Resort. What a coincidence.

(Photo: The CAST of Paul Freed's "DEATH BY CHOCOLATE" froGateway Players in Southbridge, MA. now playing through March 3, 2024. Photo Credit David Corkum)

Don't take anything too seriously, as Paul Freed's script certainly doesn't. 

Also, as keenly staged by for Gateway by Mikey Dearn, the story is all very much done in fun and the cast certainly seems to be having a good time with the preposterous plot, as well.

The onstage interactions between Bracken and Sedlier as Stone and Parlor is the best part of "DEATH BY CHOCOLATE" as it allows the duo to finally break free from otherwise routine characters and let's them have fun by busting through the fourth wall, bringing the audience into the story so their enjoyment increases, as well.

Rounding out the list of suspects are two other outsiders from the staff:

Investigative reporter Margaret Daniels (Tey Gallipeau) and the late owner's daughter, Sweet Pea Meadowbrook (Deb Hollet) each of whom also has a deeply held secret. 

Both actresses are a delight each time appearing on stage, with Hollet also having to contend with conversing in basic gibberish because her mouth is almost always filled with food. 

In addition to the relationship between Stone and Parlor, in the text by Freed, it seems pretty obvious that there is a definite "Groucho Marx/Margaret Dumont" relationship between Stone and Lady Riverdale. The only difference might be in the lack of rapid fire back and forth exchanges between the two characters.

Bracken is naturally funny and, as such, thankfully, is on stage throughout almost the entire play helping to keep things from falling into a darker noir style play, which this definitely should not be staged as such. It is pure comedy and deliciously well done.

"DEATH BY CHOCOLATE" as it allow continues for Gateway in Southbridge until March 3rd, 2024, and is an absolute treat, to be sure. For tickets and more information, call 508-764-4531 or visit www.gatewayplayers.org 

Approximately two hours, 30 minutes with one intermission

Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) 




Members of the newly renovated Meadowbrook Health Resort are dropping like flies, including famed chef Edith Chiles! 

On the eve of the grand re-opening, this is not the best advertisement. 

It’s up to John Stone, the manager, to find the cause and the murderer.


GATEWAY PLAYERS THEATRE, INC. is an all-volunteer community theater providing quality live theatre performances and workshops to Southbridge, Sturbridge, and Charlton, Massachusetts and surrounding areas. GATEWAY PLAYERS THEATRE, INC. started in 1975, when a group of interested community members decided that Southbridge needed a theater group to bring live productions to the area. First using local schools and borrowed rehearsal and storage space, GATEWAY then moved into its current home in 1978, when Ruth Wells (of the American Optical Company Wells family) donated her home on Main Street as a cultural center in Southbridge. GATEWAY PLAYERS THEATRE offers a full season of productions, usually performed at Elm Street Congregational Church, 61 Elm Street, Southbridge, MA. as well as workshops for youths and adults. Auditions are open to all, and new members are always welcome.


PO Box 171

Southbridge, MA 01550