Review: Rapid character shifts confuse in CLO Cabaret’s ‘Murder for Two’
If you’re looking for an evening out that doesn’t overwork your brain, “Murder for Two” can be a delightful mystery romp.
The musical-comedy murder-mystery that CLO Cabaret is offering through Jan. 18 leans more toward the wild ride spoofiness of Charles Ludlum’s “Irma Vep” than the serious sleuthing of Agatha Christie.
A policeman who’s angling for a promotion to detective has been sent to secure a murder scene — the home of a prominent and prolific novelist, who was shot at the start of a surprise birthday party in his honor.
The nearest official detective is on his way but unlikely to arrive for 60 minutes. Officer Marcus has a single hour to prove his investigating skills by uncovering the murderer.
But, because this is musical theater, not real life, Officer Marcus and the suspects face additional challenges as the clock ticks on.
Ian Lowe, who plays Officer Marcus, and Joe Kinosian, who plays all the suspects, also provide the music for the show, accompanying themselves or each other on the piano that’s center stage.
It’s got to be an exhausting exercise, but Kinosian and Lowe appear tireless and nearly flawless in their endeavors, particularly when playing in character duets on the piano.
Kinosian obviously has the harder job as he makes instantaneous transformations between flamboyant characters, including an emotionally needy psychiatrist, a diva ballerina, the victim’s jealous wife and three members of a boys’ choir. But it’s up to Lowe’s Officer Marcus to keep the thread of the story running forward and to up the ante with a back story of lost love and new romance in the offing.
For the record, Kinosian served as the show’s composer and co-wrote the book with Kellen Blair, who also created the lyrics.
Director Scott Schwartz keeps the action moving at a rapid pace with no time for elaborate, or even minor, costume changes. Kinosian relies on facial expressions, posture and voice to morph from character to character.
Although he’s delightfully amusing and vivid as the trio of young choristers, the rapid character shifts create some audience confusion, particularly in the early scenes where introductions are swiftly performed.
That makes it difficult to keep track of who’s who while trying to figure out whodunit. Anyone could be the killer. But without a firm emotional connection to any of the many and hazy suspects, there’s little reason to care who the killer is.
That having been said, the process, not the outcome, is the point of the show.
The show is played for laughs, and much of the dialogue and many of the clever lyrics are witty if you pay attention. It’s a show best enjoyed if you just go along for the ride and leave the questions to Officer Marcus.