Thursday, February 22, 2018
Stage

'Murder for Two' is a lighthearted, vaudevillian whodunit

TAMPA

As with the majority of touring musicals, Murder for Two visits the Tampa Bay area through the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts.

Like many, the show is light and funny, with performers who can sing and dance and act. There is only one problem to solve, and it's not our inhumanity to each other or our relationship to nature or with ourselves.

The great question is: Who killed Arthur Whitney?

Unlike any other show at the Straz this season, the cabaret-style musical is staying in town for several weeks. Not that moving would be any big deal. The set could probably fit into a single U-Haul truck.

What makes this two-man show unique is its lack of self-consciousness and a toned down sense of expectations. It asks the audience to suspend some of the normal accoutrements of theater, such as characters played by different actors and ingenious illusions.

In return, the show supplies performances so caffeinated they seem to be moving at double speed. Murder for Two, directed by Scott Schwartz and created by Kellen Blair and Jeff Kinosian, premiered in 2011 by Chicago Shakespeare Theater and was extended four times over a six-month run. It's a playful tribute to the style of Agatha Christie, with overtones of radio theater and the board game Clue.

Noel Carey plays Officer Marcus Moscowicz, who hopes to solve the murder of a famous novelist before his boss arrives on the scene. His counterpart, Jeremiah Ginn, plays all of the suspects.

Both play the piano.

The traditional mystery elements shift a spotlight of suspicion among at least a dozen characters. Did Whitney's steel magnolia wife do him in? Or could it have been her psychiatrist, who seems to have been treating everyone, including Moscowicz? The novelist's niece seems a little too helpful, and her master's thesis, "How to assist in the solving of a small-town murder," is awfully convenient.

As everyone nefarious, Ginn changes character with a turn of the head, an imaginary cigar or by adopting the gliding moves of a ballerina. All are characters Whitney knew and upon whom he drew fictional counterparts.

Ginn outdoes himself repeatedly through a very rapid 90-minute show, even dancing on his knees as three not-so-clean-cut members of a boys choir. Ginn and Carey supply all of the music, accompanying each other's soliloquies and banging out duets. They have fun with the audience, consistent with the gently self-satirizing feel of this production. Setting it in the Jaeb Theater, with its cafe seating amenable to drinks and popcorn, was a wise choice.

I realize talent is normally a means to an end, which is to tell a good story. Here the story, while amusing enough, pretty much showcases a couple of talented guys who can entertain at warp speed. Murder for Two is a bit like Prairie Home Companion, a comic riff that starts fast and never lets up.

Carey and Ginn wring out laughs and plenty of respect from the audience by sheer force of will. You cannot watch this pair do what they do and not be impressed.

So, who killed the novelist? It's almost beside the point. You might change your mind several times on the way to the end, which is part of what makes the show a fun, vaudevillian ride.

Contact Andrew Meacham at [email protected] or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

Comments
An original clarinet and bassoon composition highlights Tampa Bay Symphony concert

An original clarinet and bassoon composition highlights Tampa Bay Symphony concert

ST. PETERSBURG — After the National Anthem and some introductory remarks by the maestro, a teacher from Chattanooga, Tenn., addressed a crowd at the Palladium Tuesday about the short work they were about to hear from the Tampa Bay Symphony."This piec...
Published: 02/21/18
Orchestra debuts commissioned work, slam poet Neil Hilborn performs in Ybor

Orchestra debuts commissioned work, slam poet Neil Hilborn performs in Ybor

FLORIDA ORCHESTRA: NEW BLOODOne of the more significant Florida Orchestra events of the season, the world premiere of a commissioned piece, is this weekend. The orchestra, with personal financial backing from music director Michael Francis and his wi...
Published: 02/21/18
Review: A seemingly inexhaustible shelf life continues in ‘The Phantom of the Opera’

Review: A seemingly inexhaustible shelf life continues in ‘The Phantom of the Opera’

TAMPA Apparently, the Phantom lives forever.Thirty-two years after its premiere, one of the top-grossing musicals of all time is still packing ’em in. Sunday’s matinee at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts showed why Andrew Lloyd ...
Published: 02/19/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Trumpeter is the highlight of a concert featuring ‘West Side Story’ themes

Trumpeter is the highlight of a concert featuring ‘West Side Story’ themes

TAMPA — Leonard Bernstein would have turned 100 this year. The Florida Orchestra performed two of his works Friday, the second of which paired the dances from West Side Story with the overture to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet.The orches...
Published: 02/17/18
Five things that make Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Volta’ different and fun

Five things that make Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Volta’ different and fun

TAMPA — Cirque du Soleil is back in town with a new show.The Montreal-based company always puts on an extravaganza, splashing around color with the abandon of a toddler playing with paint buckets and a storyline several layers deep, the artistic skel...
Published: 02/16/18
Updated: 02/18/18
On stage this weekend: Trumpeter Haken Hardenberger, Complexions Contemporary Ballet

On stage this weekend: Trumpeter Haken Hardenberger, Complexions Contemporary Ballet

FLORIDA ORCHESTRA: ROMEO AND JULIET The Florida Orchestra has lined up a romantic evening. This weekend’s concert, Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story, pays tribute to Tchaikovsky and Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein’s prelude, Fugues and R...
Published: 02/14/18
‘Brownsville Song’ at Stageworks tells important story but falls short on believability

‘Brownsville Song’ at Stageworks tells important story but falls short on believability

TAMPA — In some ways, the latest offering at Stageworks Theatre comes loaded with promise.A young man with a lot of motivation, personality and wisdom dies in a random and violent way. In telling his story, we also get a glimpse of life in a Brooklyn...
Published: 02/12/18
Laura Benanti talks about her Melania impression, growing up ‘the odd person out’ and more

Laura Benanti talks about her Melania impression, growing up ‘the odd person out’ and more

Tony winner Laura Benanti (for best actress in a musical), who brings her cabaret act to the Straz Center this week, was a self-described ugly duckling. Growing up in New Jersey, she never tired of Sondheim soundtracks and struggled with a secret shy...
Published: 02/09/18
Even Jimmy Buffett does not live the Jimmy Buffett lifestyle anymore

Even Jimmy Buffett does not live the Jimmy Buffett lifestyle anymore

Jimmy Buffett awoke one morning last year in one of his many homes — he can’t remember which one, there are a lot of them — and a panic gripped him in his throat. His new Broadway musical, Escape to Margaritaville, was coming along nicely, but someth...
Published: 02/08/18
Updated: 02/09/18
Florida Orchestra mixes it up, collaborates with community in 2018-19 season

Florida Orchestra mixes it up, collaborates with community in 2018-19 season

ST. PETERSBURGThemes are useful sometimes. Right now, the Florida Orchestra is still enjoying the heart of its 50th anniversary season, which has been big and loud and celebratory.At other times, maybe it’s best to just put a fine program together an...
Updated one month ago