I can’t resist: The family that plays together stays together. How often does that chance come along? Right now we have a prime example with “White Cottage,” the latest offering of The Playhouse. Written and directed by Julia Clapp, the Edwardian murder-mystery features among its players Clapp herself and father Lincoln and younger sister Liddy. The Clapps have paired up in previous productions — even playing father-daughter in last year’s “Sherlock’s Veiled Secret” — but this is the first time for the three in one.

The happy collaboration of the Clapp (rhymes with “Trapp”) family players stands in pointed contrast to the prickly interface of the play’s characters, almost all of whom are related by blood, marriage or years of loyal service. Unlike the dramatis personae of a more traditional murder-mystery, these people are not randomly mingled. Rather, if they resent, distrust, fear, loathe or despise one another, it is not a recent development but the result of long association.

Technically speaking, “White Cottage” is not a murder-mystery because a sudden disappearance is not a murder. The crime scene is reconstructed — twice — still with no murder. Also, habeus corpus. There is no body. But all the other classic elements are present, including an isolated English country house, a raging storm, a power outage, a butler and a gun, which is likely the murder weapon if there is or was a murder. In any event, the story ends with one fewer character than it begins.

As several of the players forewarn, madness is close at hand. The master of the country house — White Cottage is also the name of the house — states flat out that he hates country living, adding, “A man could go mad on an evening like this.” Matt Ferrell, a newcomer to the local theater scene, seems younger than his character and his shirt not as fully stuffed, but he provides an earnest portrayal of Oscar Banstead, who makes enough inane statements in the course of the play to corroborate some sort of impaired state.

Though country living makes his wife claustrophobic, Mr. Banstead dutifully brings Mrs. Banstead to the country for her nerves. In her first role at The Playhouse, Danielle Bannister adeptly recasts the country-house hostess she played last season in “The Mousetrap” at the Maskers. There she was perky newlywed. Here she is put-upon second wife. Bannister leaves little doubt as to the degree of her character’s exasperation and discomfiture.

Jacob Fricke had a turn as a newlywed in that same production of “The Mousetrap.” Here, as Banstead’s newlywed nephew William Irons, Fricke evinces a similarly mannered exuberance. This time his bride Carmen is the toast of London, um, theater. Angelina Nichols, who was seen in “Wild Mushrooms” last spring at The Playhouse, plays Carmen with all the panache she can muster.

Central to the action, of course, is the devoted butler Sykes, played with finesse by Lincoln Clapp. Sykes has been in Mr. Banstead’s employ for just about forever, and we shudder to think what would become of everyone if Sykes weren’t there to oversee dusting. Still, owing to the fear and suspicion and rampant neurosis that pervade the house, Sykes becomes the principal suspect after Mrs. Banstead suddenly disappears.

Syke’s ally and confidante is Master James Banstead, Oscar’s son by his first wife, deceased. Intently portrayed by Playhouse regular Clayton Clemetson, James has never got along with his father’s second wife. Would he do in his stepmother? James is also a prime suspect in her disappearance.

As the young parlor maid Emily, Liddy Clapp seems to have the most fun of all. Emily is given to talking to herself “for the company.” She also recites speeches by Lady Macbeth for reasons unexplained. When frightened, which is often, she trembles like a girl possessed, her maid’s cap atwitter. But Emily has a friend in James, and together the two try resolutely to bring some sense to bear in this circuitous tale.

Playwright and director Julia Clapp takes a role as the mysterious Mrs. Wells, certainly the most complicated of the play’s characters. The actress is considerably younger than the woman she portrays, but Clapp’s measured mien serves to lend the requisite credibility.

Social class is an issue that permeates the play. The lines are drawn — everyone seems content to have or be servants — but they are easily blurred. Twice the maid Emily says something is “not my place,” and both times she is told it really is. Some characters seem to disparage class distinctions while firmly holding to them. Some have ascended the social scale only to rue their new position.

Love, which the plot calls into heavy motivational service, is also only incidentally considered. Except for William and his bride — Carmen alone makes her Willie feel that “everything is going to be all right” — the rest are operating on abstractions. One character is said to have repressed unrequited love for more than five years. The embers of another such unfulfilled attachment are still aglow after all of 25 years. At the same time, the relationship between teenagers James and Emily seems at a safe remove from romance or ardor. He lends a hand with the dishes and hopes for her help in finding a dead mouse.

Producer Mary Weaver and Lincoln Clapp have teamed up to produce a handsome period parlor as well as frightfully realistic sound effects. Fricke has also done double duty procuring the vintage costumes. Diane Coller Wilson has contributed makeup, and Cyndi Parker wigs and hair design.

“White Cottage” will run for another two weekends, through Aug. 15, at The Playhouse, 107 Church St. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door, which opens 15 minutes before the performance. Seating is limited; call 338-5777 for reservations.

Belfast resident William Nelson enjoys a good thriller.