Fauquier Community Theater is presenting "The Butler Did It," a comedy whodunit by Walter and Peter Marks.

You might assume that the title provides a clue, but because the characters, apart from a detective and an actual butler, all have the last name of Butler, the killer of the title could be any one of four people.

What the playwrights are attempting is a spoof of the classic thriller. Suddenly, a director interrupts the action, and we learn that all these "butlers" are being played by actors who have been rehearsing hard and whose director has yet to let them play the last scene.

This director, who is also the producer and writer, is trying to make a Broadway comeback after a string of flops. He's keeping the final scene from these actors so they will play it with an exhilarating freshness on opening night. He further announces that they all will be moving into the theater to intensify their relationships during the last days before opening.

This gives the authors a chance to complicate matters by introducing personal tensions among the actors.

At Fauquier's first performance, the director of the production, Tom Hansen, had to fill in for an ailing actor in the role of Raymond Butler (also actor Robert). This added extra spice to a plot already bursting at the seams with interesting possibilities. Hansen performed valiantly without a script, injecting pomposity into his Butler and convincing us equally of his inability to learn lines as Robert.

Barbara Kasbohm does a nice job as an actress moving into her "mature" years who suddenly turns selfish and ambitious while maintaining a saucy liaison with the youngest actor. Patrick Thornton plays both Michael, the rather muscular young actor given to tempestuous jealousy, and Aldo, the butler.

Chuck Chase plays Detective Mumford, with a required bad lower-class British accent, and the low-key actor Sam, who at one point demonstrates carrying a loaded tray aloft with one hand. He trips, and the tray spins through the air and is caught by the director, without spilling a drop! This remarkable act was greeted by the audience with joyous applause.

Debbi Sheperd is especially good as actress Claudia, who gets her first big break and clearly falls for her director, and as the arch and absurd Vicki Butler.

Finally, most honors go to Tim O'Kane as the producer-writer-director in the play, who spends much time mincing berries to poison beverages (with increasing frenzy -- several of his plans go hilariously) and on whose able shoulders rest the pace and energy of the entire evening. The director is admittedly a rich role: He must coax, wheedle, bully, comfort, flatter, manipulate, woo and cheerlead his players, all of which O'Kane does with apparently boundless energy and humor. He flourishes at Fauquier as a true leading man.

"The Butler Did It" at Fauquier Community Theater, The Loft, Warrenton, through Dec. 15. For information and reservations, call 349-8760.