Monday, February 3, 2020

“Murder For Two”: Mishigas By The Numbers

“Murder For Two” by Joe Kinosian (Book and Music) and Kellen Blair (Book and Lyrics) stars Tony Houck as all the suspects (count about 12) in a killing we don’t see. Marcus Moscowicz (JD Dumas)  is the wannabe detective who wants to solve the who-dun-it.  Both enter. Marcus/Dumas starts playing a four handed overture that ends with a BANG. Yup! A murder, maybe two, has been committed at the residence of Arthur Whitney, The Grand American Novelist.
Tony Houck (are we having fun yet?)
The extremely talented Houck, in a tour de force performance, plays almost as many characters as you can count on both hands, and then some. His straight man, JD Dumas, who does yeoman’s work trying to solve the mystery of who shot…well it gets complicated and convoluted, but who cares.

Call it what you will, madness, mayhem, mishigas, mindless or mystery by the numbers, and if you want to throw in musical talent, go right ahead, it matters not; it’s just silly fun.  It’s something to detract from the mayhem, madness and mishigas that’s playing out back stage at the White House, only that’s not funny even if it is run by clowns.   

“Murder For Two”, directed with an eye for fun, frolic and frenzy by AJ Knox will be playing through March 1st at New Village Theatre, that is if Houck doesn’t run out of gas.

Anytime one actor can take on a dozen or so characters with a slight of hand, or change of posture, change back in a nanosecond, to a ballerina or an ex wife who was given the gait, speak in different voices, or become three choir boys Timmy, Yonkers and Skid by slightly changing the angle of a cap, or speaking as niece Steph, or granny, or a German psychiatrist, or who ever the list of guests turns up in the loooong list of suspects, has my utmost admiration.

Craig Noel nominee for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical, Houck is NVA’S Artistic Associate who recently served as orchestrator and musical director for the theatre’s last production,  ’80 Days”. 

Half way through the production I wondered what it would be to crawl into his head, but that too seemed even more mind boggling than his learning all those parts, accents and body language for each character. 
JD Dumas as Marcus Moscowicz
On the other hand Moscowicz, played with panache by Dumas, has his own weight to carry in this 100-minute whodunit caper. While he’s not really a detective he has assisted the deceased mystery writer’s niece Steph who is working on her own theses: “How to Assist in the Solving of a Small Town Murder”. Almost Det. Moscowicz sets out to solve the murder, by the book, while in panic mode because the REAL detective, back at Headquarters and an hour away, has yet to arrive at the scene of the crime. 

Dumas, who is making his NVA debut, is no stranger to musical theatre. In his other life, his non – detective life - has appeared in “Urinetown” and “My Fair Lady” to mention a few.

Believe it or not there is a story to be told in between thirteen or fourteen musical numbers, a mystery to be solved and more (red) herrings than one can find at Seattle’s Best.

And yes the famous mystery writer, Arthur Whitney is found dead at his own surprise birthday party. And yes we have a body. And yes everyone at the party is a suspect, has a motive, a story and an alibi, ergo Houck becomes every guest at the party (and then some) with their own take and relationship to the murder victim. With much ado the real killer is finally identified.
Tom Abruzzo is musical director, Jenna Ingrassia-Knox choreographed (an amazing job) Paul Cantaletti, Jr. designed the lighting, Viola Ceja, the sound Keira McGee costumes and Doug Cummings designed a back stage looking set with an assortment of props lined up along the sides. A piano, two chairs, a couch and two rugs cover the floor and…oops, no spoilers here, are put to good use when needed.

Stage manager Alexis Ellis-Alvarez has her hands full calling this show, as does properties designer Rosalie Barrientos. Hats off to them.
Dumas and Houck
While there were only two flesh and blood characters that we see, it takes a village for a zany show like “Murder For Two” to succeed, and succeed it does.


See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through March 1st
Organization: New Village Arts Theatre
Phone: 760-433-3245
Production Type: Musical Mystery
Where: 2787 State Street, Carlsbad, CA
Ticket Prices: Start at $25.00
Photo Credit: Daren Scott

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