'Murder for 2' a comic tour-de-force at Lyric
Lyric Theatre’s production of the multi-award nominated musical “Murder for Two” is a hilarious homage to the classic whodunit with a modern theatrical twist. Directed by Scott Schwartz, with music by Joe Kinosian, lyrics by Kellen Blair, and book by both, this two actor/one piano show is a hoot guaranteed to liven up any evening.
The story is set in motion as Officer Marcus, desperately seeking a promotion to detective, is called to secure a crime scene. The famed writer Arthur Whitley has been shot dead at his surprise party. Marcus, and his fellow cop (but never partner) Lou, sets about following protocol to try and solve the murder. As the night unfolds Marcus uncovers some unsavory facts about the guests at the party, and of course, everyone is a suspect… even himself! The assigned detective is on the way, so Marcus, promotion ever on his mind, is on a mission to solve the case himself—in under an hour.
Ian Lowe plays the lovable, underdog cop Marcus, just trying to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a detective. Lowe gave this potentially trite character a freshness and warmth obvious even at the breakneck pace of the action. The show sucked in every ounce of the audience’s attention, and it was Lowe who held the reins, guiding the action even as he developed the past history of the beleaguered police officer. His acting partner, however, delivered a tour de force of characterization. Playing each one of the suspects, Kyle Branzel represented a menagerie of characters young and old, male and female. His clear use of mannerisms, physicality, and dialect made it easy for the audience to follow Branzel’s transformation from one zany suspect to another. Dancing, singing, and acting out individuals as diverse as members of a twelve piece boys’ choir to the less than grieving widow from the crochety old psychiatrist to a sullen (and attractive!) prima ballerina, among others, Branzel’s skill and ability never stopped and neither did the laughs.
Lowe and Branzel bounced off each other with almost bewilderingly skilled timing. The pace of the show was fast at the beginning and raced to an exciting conclusion, leaving the audience with very little time to get into their heads. The only reactions were natural, visceral, and positive; the audience laughed and groaned (yes, of course there were bad puns and sly pop culture references) themselves into a standing ovation for the performers.
One uncredited actor, however, is the piano. The presence of the grand piano both defines the elegance of the Whitely home and gives Lowe and Branzel a set piece worthy of their talents. The instrument added a truly magical depth of feeling, sound, and life on stage. Each actor played to accompany himself, his partner, or they played jointly and sometimes competitively. The songs were effective story-telling devices and great comic turns in themselves. Lowe and Branzel filled the theatre with beautiful music, supported by their strong voices that kept the story moving forward.
Scenic designer Beowulf Boritt truly creates a playful but appropriately foreboding atmosphere to represent the Whitely manor. Along with lighting designer Jason Lyons, the complete visual picture interacted with the action of the musical and represented the impression of the piece with excellent precision. Beyond the merely visual aspects, the brilliant sound design by Jill BC Du Boff helped to create the world of the Whitely manor, added emphasis, and perfectly accented the comedic pacing. The unifying work of director Schwartz, music director David Caldwell, and choreographer Wendy Seyb has resulted in a theatre experience of comedic gold. No aspect of this production fell short in any regard.
This hysterical tour de force is something you don’t want to miss. “Murder for Two” runs through April 12th at Lyric at the Plaza, located at 1727 NW 16th Street in Oklahoma City. Shows are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays evenings at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8:00, and matinee performances Saturday and Sunday at 2:00. Purchase tickets online at Lyrictheatreokc.com or by calling the box office at (405) 524-9312.
Contributor: Anna Holloway