Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Gerald Moon's Corpse! Shows Signs of Life at the Ross Valley Players
Also see Richard's review of ManLady
One of the oldest regional companies in California, The Ross Valley Players, concluded their 73rd season with Gerald Moon's old chestnut, Corpse!, at the Barn Theatre in Ross. The small cast of characters can still breathe life into the old boy yet. The British seem to be the only people who can write this type of improbable farce and get away with it. It also takes several good Englishmen to tackle the timing and insanity of this murder-cum-farce. The Ross Valley Players furnishes two very good English actors to play the leads.
I first saw Corpse! at the Apollo Theater in London in 1986 with Keith Baxter and Milo O'Shea playing the leads. It was a great success in the West End that year. Over the years the mystery has played in repertory in the U.K. It is currently touring the provinces in the United Kingdom with Mark McGann (the last Dr. Who on British TV) and Colin Baker. Louise Jameson ("EastEnders") is playing the tippling landlady.
The basic plot is simple. Twin brothers Evelyn and Rupert (both played here by Gary Breeds) have sibling rivalry to the extreme. Evelyn is an egocentric, out of work Shakespearian actor who is down on his luck. He loathes his wealthy twin brother Rupert who is a big business tycoon. Evelyn wants his brother dead so he can inherit the fortune that Rupert has amassed. Evelyn devises a diabolical plan to get his hands on the fortune.
Evelyn hires a blustering and shady supposed ex-British Army major of the Fusiliers to depose of the twin so Evelyn can assume his identity and inherit the family fortune. Will this "major" help or hinder the plan? The fun starts here as there are twists in the plotline that I won't disclose. Actually the "whodunit" becomes a "whodunnit-to-whom." The whole play is played for laughs and is more farce than typical English thriller.
The small cast is delightful with two real Englishmen taking the major roles. Gary Breeds (he played the title role in the original musical Oliver in the West End and also played the young son of Anna in the original London production of King and I at the Palladium) is excellent in the twin roles of the fey Evelyn and the uptight and very proper Rupert. He easily transfers from one character to the other in the two hour play.
John Anthony Nolan (London born and recently in Ross Valley's production of A Man For All Seasons) makes a perfect duffer as the seedy Army officer down on his luck. Marilyn Kreiger Hughes (The Prime of Miss Brodie at the Players and Cosmetic Counter at the Marin Fringe Festival) tends to really go overboard in a burlesque treatment of a tippling, loving landlady. The small cast is rounded out by Dale Camden with an excellent London accent playing a English bobby.
Sets by Ken Rowland are cleverly devised to show Evelyn's seedy Soho flat, then suddenly change with a brief blackout to Rupert's upscale Mayfair set. Director Mike Reynolds keeps the production moving at a rapid pace with scene changes that are very well done for a community production. Corpse! is a bubbly, enjoyable play performed by a well seasoned cast.
Corpse! closed on August 24. Ross Valley Players opens their 2003-2004 season with Ken Ludwig Postmortem on September 19 at the Barn Theatre,, Marin Art and Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd at Lagunitas, Ross. For tickets call 415-456-9555 or on line at www.rossvalleyplayers.org.