This year’s 7th Grade play, The Tarantula’s Web, offered a creeping mystery of art theft, deception, mistaken identity, and the timeless struggle of the social classes!
On a chilly winter evening, guests are soon to arrive at the old Charles mansion for a party held by its current occupants– the Hail family, whose father is the Deputy British Prime Minister and whose mother is a well-regarded manager of an art museum. And the Charles House is nearly a museum in itself, filled throughout with valuable art and artifacts, the remaining possessions of the former owner, who died under mysterious circumstances– rumors have it, in fact, that his car may have been tampered with. Now all that is left of Mr. Charles is his mansion, its valuable contents, and his staff of butlers, disgruntled with their station in society, yet simultaneously determined to preserve the legacy of their employer.
The tender equilibrium of the night is sent spiraling off balance, however, by the early arrival of the first– and uninvited– guest. It’s Mr. Oliver, Mrs. Hail’s former boss from the museum, now a known art thief fresh out of prison for his crimes, for which Mrs. Hail turned him in. With a dark flourish of blackmail, Mr. Oliver has secured his place at the party with unknown motives, beyond that of destruction. In his own words to Mrs. Hail: “You ruined my career, now I’m going to ruin your weekend!”
As the rest of the guests arrive, including art dealers from Sotheby’s and art critics from the Times, Mr. Oliver fades into the background, sneaking throughout the house and beginning to ransack the desk drawers of each and every room. As the guests retire for a game of croquet, leaving the butlers to construct a picnic, make lemonade, and consider the unjust distribution of labor in this house, the lights suddenly extinguish, and Mr. Oliver is knocked blindly to the ground, unconscious.
Committed not to let this little episode spoil the party, the guests come together to move Mr. Oliver out of the way– but when the police unexpectedly arrive, a series of Bernie-esque shenanigans must be enacted to evade suspicion, while all the while the malignant question grows: who was responsible for the attack on Oliver, and to what end?
As one of the Hail daughters takes a nap, worn out from all this excitement (a privilege to which the butlers are decidedly not entitled), who should creep forward with a smothering pillow– but the intern June Warrender, who reveals herself in reality to be the niece of the deceased Mr. Charles! Not only was she responsible for tampering with her uncle’s car, it seems, but she also took this job with the expressed goal of returning to the house, in order to apprehend a valuable, misprinted stamp– the same item that Oliver himself was seeking in the various desks throughout the house.
Facing this revelation, the hosts and their guests stand in shock that the young intern would commit such heinous crimes for a measly fifty-thousand British pounds. As she’s led away by the police detectives, Ms. Warrender tears down the veil between the social classes, leveling an accusatory finger at her condemning hosts, as they have never had to want, never found themselves struggling in a world designed for the rich– never, in short, had to make their own lemonade. As she’s led away, one can almost see understanding shimmering in the eyes of the butlers.
Thanks as always to our amazing writer and director, Elisa Sidoli, as well as Jane Rothwell for her support on costumes, and Sean Reardon for the scenery. Additional thanks to all seventh grade advisors, families, and– of course– the seventh grade actors themselves for another incredible performance!