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Theater Review: “Murder for Two”

“Murder for Two” plays through March 1, 2020 at New Village Arts, 2787 State Street, Carlsbad.
Photo credit:
Daren Scott

How about a goofball murder-mystery musical called “Murder For Two,” featuring two piano-playing, singing actors playing a total of 13 (oops, unlucky number) characters.

New Village Arts offers this crazy 90-minute, one-act show through March 1, directed by NVA’s versatile Directory of Connectivity (and sometime actor and director) AJ Knox. Kellen Blair and Joe Kinosian collaborated on the book. Blair also wrote the lyrics; Kinosian the music.

The NVA stage features a baby grand piano which is played by both actors, singly and together. JD Dumas plays not-quite-detective Marcus (hoping to get that badge soon). He also voices two unseen characters. NVA regular Tony Houck plays all 10 of the suspects, often in head-spinning rapidity.

The plot is standard Agatha Christie fare: Great American Novelist Arthur Whitney arrives home for his birthday party (planned by bored housewife Dahlia), only to be shot before he even gets to drink a toast (or eat ice cream, which has mysteriously disappeared).

Whitney had a habit of exposing his friends’ dirty little secrets in his books, so there’s no lack of possible motives among this crowd. He could have been felled by a gunshot, poisoned tea or a knife to the gut, depending on whom you ask.

Dahlia, annoyed that Whitney kept her out of show business all these years, admits that she’s less than devastated at the news of his death, but denies having anything to do with it.

Whitney’s bickering neighbors Murray and Barb Flandon apparently also have an interesting relationship. On hearing the news, Murray accuses Barb of doing it (“It Was Her”).

"This is the third time you’ve accused me of homicide this month,” Barb sighs.

Flatfoot Marcus is assigned the case, and hopes that solving this case will impress the unseen Chief enough to merit the coveted Detective’s badge.

One of the suspects is German-accented psychiatrist Dr. Griff, who turns out to be the shrink of everybody in the house. Hmm. Here’s a guy who knows all the dirt on everybody. Could he be the one?

Then there’s Barrette Lewis, the contralto-voiced ballerina who slithers around en pointe, and may have slipped into Arthur’s bed more than once or twice.

The Whitneys’ niece Steph, an overeager grad student, immediately attaches herself to Marcus, because the topic of her master’s thesis in criminology is “How to Assist in the Solving of a Small-Town Murder.” She decides she needs to be his partner in solving this crime.

Three members of a boys’ choir show up to confuse issues even more. And Houck plays them all ... while “walking” around on his knees.

How does it end? I’ll leave that for you to find out.

Kudos to the tech staff – set designer Doug Cumming and costumer Keira McGee make the joint look just right. And Paul Canaletti, Jr. and Violet Ceja are kept extremely busy with lighting and sound designs.

It’s almost exhausting just to watch this show. But I’ve got to admit that it’s a barrel of fun. Don’t miss it.

The details

“Murder for Two” plays through March 1, 2020 at New Village Arts, 2787 State Street, Carlsbad.

Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 3 and 8 pm.; Sunday at 2 pm.