Murder for Two at Park Square Theatre’s Andy Boss Thrust Stage

Nic Delcambre (investigator) and Andrea Wollenberg (all the suspects). Photo: Petronella J Ytsma

Nic Delcambre (investigator) and Andrea Wollenberg (all the suspects). Photo: Petronella J Ytsma

Park Square has opened a must-be-seen-as-live-theater kind of show, packed with laughs, silly surprises and feats of performance daring-do. “Murder for Two” is the perfect small show for the theater’s new, intimate Andy Boss Stage.

You’ve heard of a triple threat (act, sing and dance)? Here’s a new one … an actor who can sing, play multiple characters – practically simultaneously – and accompany herself on the piano. Andrea Wollenberg does all of the above, and she does it extremely well. She also makes it look like a romp – just play, having fun with an audience, great party schtick – anything but a challenge. Wow! What fun! In fact, I dare you to find another show that’s this much fun!

Here’s the story: Officer Marcus Moscowicz (Nic Delcambre) happens to be the only cop available the night that a famous novelist is murdered in his house, during his own birthday party. His wife and the guests (all played by Wollenberg) are suspects. Is it the ballerina with whom the writer was having an affair? The psychiatrist providing material for his new book? The graduate student niece? Somebody in the audience?

For some reason – I suspect it was purely the fun of playing those characters – three members of a rough ‘n tough youth choir are there to provide entertainment. Nonsense. But the entertainment value is unmistakable, as Wollenberg switches her cap from front to back to side and sings “We’ve Seen a Lot Worse” as all three.

But the virtuosity here is not in the cop’s sleuthing skills. (We don’t really care who killed the novelist anyway.) It’s the one piano/four hands, laced with the acrobatics of switching accompanists mid-musical phrase that fascinates. (The mirror positioned to reflect the keyboard makes sure you won’t miss a bit of it.)

Delcambre has to, for the most part, play the straight man, convince us he’ll solve the crime, even though he’s probably not ready to be a detective. Delcambre plays it with a soft touch, which works beautifully, slipping behind the piano to anchor songs like “A Perfectly Lovely Surprise” and “What If I Did?” without dropping his detective-wannabe persona.

Wollenberg’s part was created by and for a man to play, but as director Randy Reyes confided, it was necessary to find someone who could just do the part. His decision to cast a woman worked perfectly, in my book. I think it created a completely new dynamic for the show, and if I’m not mistaken, he’s broken new ground for its production.

This show has collected a pile of awards for its writers, Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair, who are moving on to ever greater accomplishments, but I do wish they’d clean a couple of distractions. The recorded disco song was jarring and we didn’t need it. Conventions by that point were well established – and they were working. It was the beginning of a messy denouement, and a few too many inside jokes designed for musical theater aficionados. But it ultimately gets itself back on track for a fully satisfying finish.

It runs through November 1. Recommended!

 

On another note: The experience of attending live theater begins when one enters the theater and sits down. Generally there is a preset to look at and possibly pre-show music. It’s all part of putting the audience in the right “place.” I am not fond of the practice of some theaters (including Park Square) to have someone get on the stage just prior to curtain, thank supporters and solicit additional support. I know why they do it, but I wish they would find another way. After bows would be more acceptable. 

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