Laboratory tests showed that a defective prop that caused theatergoers at the Bangor Opera House to suffer coughing fits March 16 contained pepper spray, according to the Bangor police.
“The testing confirmed the canister did contain, oleoresin ‘capsicum’ more commonly known as pepper spray,” Sgt. Wade Betters, spokesman for the Bangor police, said Tuesday. “The investigation revealed no criminal intent; therefore our investigation into the matter is closed.”
The container used during opening night of Penobscot Theatre Company’s production of “Ripcord” was labeled water and is used most often in law enforcement training exercises, according to Bari Newport, the theater company’s producing artistic director.
She said the day after the mishap that identical containers had been used four previous times during rehearsals without a problem.
Police declined to say Tuesday whether other canisters purchased for use in future performances were tested. Newport previously said the theater company planned to use a different prop for the remainder of the production, which runs through Sunday.
Representatives of the theater did not immediately return a request for comment.
The canister was produced by Mace Security International. It is almost identical to the ones that hold pepper spray, but the canister is blue and is clearly labeled “water.”
How many canisters were mislabeled is unclear, but Mace officials are aware of the Bangor incident.
“We are pleased to learn there were no injuries as a result of the incident,” Gary Medved, president and chief operating officer of Mace Security International, said Monday. “That being said, we are aware of what transpired that evening, and continue to investigate. At this time, we can provide no further comment.”
The training canister was not available on the company’s website Monday, but other companies that sell Mace products still offered the product.
The pepper spray was released during a scene toward the beginning of Act Two of “Ripcord,” the David Lindsay-Abaire comedy that Penobscot Theatre Company has been performing since March 14. During a confrontation, actress Danielle Kennedy pulled a small container from her purse and sprayed it in the eyes of actor Brad LaBree, who did not appear to break character but missed the following day’s performance.
As the mist dissipated over the audience, theatergoers began coughing uncontrollably. So many theatergoers were coughing that many of those in attendance could not hear the dialogue for most of the next scene. Some audience members coughed through the curtain call.
The theater replaced the training canisters beginning with the March 17 matinee and has had no further problems, according to Newport.
Members of the Bangor fire and police departments were at the theater to investigate as the performance ended.