Friday, January 19, 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
Inside American Stage’s plan to offer free or reduced admission to young people

Inside American Stage’s plan to offer free or reduced admission to young people

ST. PETERSBURG An air compressor did most of the talking as the small crew stapled down flooring to the stage. A master carpenter kept unskilled but eager workers on track, telling them where to line up edges. An astringent smell of glue permeated t...
Published: 01/18/18
What’s on stage this week: Riverdance, ‘Mike Hammer,’ ‘The Tempest’

What’s on stage this week: Riverdance, ‘Mike Hammer,’ ‘The Tempest’

RIVERDANCE AT 20: CIARA SEXTONShe’s a former world champion in Irish dance, and now Ciara Sexton, center, is leading Riverdance in Tampa. A lead dancer and soloist with the troupe, Sexton said she has felt comfortable touring the states."What really ...
Published: 01/17/18
Steve Martin and Martin Short talk touring together and ‘newfangled old-fashioned’ variety show

Steve Martin and Martin Short talk touring together and ‘newfangled old-fashioned’ variety show

It’s barely been a year since Steve Martin and Martin Short last brought their roadshow to town. But there was never a doubt in their minds they’d be back."We thought — and I seriously mean this — we’ve got to play Florida more." Martin said in a pho...
Published: 01/17/18
Tampa Rep’s ‘Gnit’ is a sharp commentary on narcissism in the age of selfies

Tampa Rep’s ‘Gnit’ is a sharp commentary on narcissism in the age of selfies

By JULIE GARISTOTimes CorrespondentTAMPA — Tampa Repertory Theatre’s Gnit strikes gold for theatergoers who appreciate deadpan wit, clever wordplay and incisive commentary on the human condition.First produced in 2013, the retread of a Scandinavian c...
Published: 01/16/18
Review: Show Palace’s Pippin daring and dangerous

Review: Show Palace’s Pippin daring and dangerous

HUDSON —If you saw the musical Pippin when it first hit Broadway in 1972, or a high school drama club version, or even a touring company rendition a decade ago, it’s not exactly the Pippin you’ll see if you’re wise enough to go see the spectacular mo...
Published: 01/15/18
Updated: 01/18/18
Review: Richey Suncoast’s I Hate Hamlet worth shouting about

Review: Richey Suncoast’s I Hate Hamlet worth shouting about

NEW PORT RICHEY — Many years ago I lived near New Orleans, and one of my favorite pastimes was to put my son in his stroller and saunter up and down the streets of the Vieux Carre.But Bourbon Street in the late afternoon was our favorite. Back then, ...
Published: 01/15/18
Updated: 01/18/18
A play about Miami’s Cocaine Cowboys is becoming a reality

A play about Miami’s Cocaine Cowboys is becoming a reality

MIAMI — The idea seemed outlandish, maybe even impossible at the time: a one-man play about Miami’s infamous Cocaine Cowboys of the 1980s. Some 15 years ago, the Miami-raised Billy Corben was deep into research for what would become Coca...
Published: 01/15/18
Updated: 01/16/18
With Zev Buffman at the creative end, Ruth Eckerd Hall brings Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer to the stage

With Zev Buffman at the creative end, Ruth Eckerd Hall brings Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer to the stage

An actor famous for playing a radio station manager will star this week in the world premiere of a radio play.Mike Hammer: Encore for Murder brings Gary Sandy, who played Andy Travis on WKRP in Cincinnati, to Ruth Eckerd Hall. And the star power was ...
Published: 01/12/18
Updated: 01/13/18
Here’s how to sing along to the entire Hamilton soundtrack at a Tampa library

Here’s how to sing along to the entire Hamilton soundtrack at a Tampa library

If you’re already singing along to the entire Hamilton soundtrack alone, why not meet like-minded folks and do it together?A Hamilton singalong goes down tonight at the Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library in Tampa. Fans will gather to sing the entire — y...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18
Beacon 2018 brings professional dancers and choreographers to the Palladium

Beacon 2018 brings professional dancers and choreographers to the Palladium

ST. PETERSBURGThe dancers kept moving, spinning, pausing for arabesques or stretches. Over most of a December afternoon at the Mirror Lake Studios, they rarely stopped, whether rehearsing specific routines or not.Choreographer Lauren Ree Slone also m...
Published: 01/11/18