Book: Joe Kinosian &Kellen Blair
Music: Joe Kinosian
Lyrics: Kellen Blair
Director: Scott Schwartz
Reviewer: Jamie Rosler
Advertised as “zany” and “madcap,” Murder for Two delivers as promised. A musical comedy and murder mystery, starring Brett Ryback as the police officer with dreams of making detective, and Joe Kinosian – the hardest working man on off-Broadway – as everyone else, these are the silliest 90-minutes running in New York City.
The first moments of the show are used to perfectly set up the conventions that will carry us through the show. The actors enter the stage together, grandly and with proper vaudevillian flair. Almost immediately, they begin a tussle over the removal of the piano cover, and who will get to sit at the keys first. Ultimately they share the bench, as they will do often throughout the show, and the audience is prepared for an entire show that winks directly at them (if once or twice too often). These are actors and this is a play, and, lest we forget, there is an excess of self-referential jokes, nods to the audience, and one moment where an audience member is even brought on stage and asked to play a dead body.
The actual opening number, after what should be considered the prelude, allows Kinosian to sing to the audience about turning off our mobile phones (a joke that will recur multiple times before the curtain falls), and offer the advice that “if [we] have a pager there’s a garbage can by the door.” We also get our first glimpse of the many characters he will play, denoted with a change of voice and posture, or possibly the addition of glasses, cigar, or a baseball hat. Ryback introduces us to the setting – the spooky mansion filled with wacky characters – where he will earn his promotion to detective by showing the chief how well he follows homicide protocol.
Arthur Whitney, a great American novelist, has been murdered at his own surprise party, and everyone in the room is a suspect. When the motive is discovered, everyone in the room is a suspect. When one more person is murdered, there is one less suspect in the room.
It is a joy to go to the theatre and be purely entertained by people whose main goal is to entertain you, to make you laugh. Countless puns, randomly absurd humour, and more than one double entendre keep the audience laughing. Though there are a few jokes that fall flat, the pace of the show makes it easily forgiven; for there is always another chuckle just around the corner. Lighting, designed by Jason Lyons, also deserves a mention. There are some great moments that really help define the characters of the suspects, and some phenomenal uses of onstage lighting by the actors to help set the tone and move events forward.
Advertised as “perfect for ages 8 to 98,” there are a few references, and one F-bomb, that more uptight parents might not want their 8-year old to hear, but for the most part this is a show for everyone. Energetic and entertaining, with an impressive commitment from the actors, you will not be disappointed.
Runs until 6th July 2014