Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Also see Fred's review of A Doll's House, Part 2
Murder for Two debuted at Chicago Shakespeare in 2011 and ran Off-Broadway for over a year before launching a national tour in 2014. Running a smooth ninety minutes, with no intermission, the show requires two multi-talented actors; in less then able hands, the show would simply collapse. Happily, Trevor Dorner and John Grieco are inspired clowns, with the ability to both act and play the piano, as well as create an entire world onstage. On David Lewis' delectable set of an old house, just right for a murder mystery, the two actors keep Murder for Two merrily afloat from beginning to end.
The plot is basically that there has been a murder of a renowned mystery novelist, and Inspector Marcus has been assigned to the case. Featuring a host of potential suspects, the balance of the show follows Marcus getting to the bottom of the mystery and solving the crime. To reveal anymore would be unthinkable, as Murder for Two boils over with surprise and invention, and more than half the fun is seeing what's going to happen next.
While the role of Marcus is portrayed skillfully by John Grieco, the numerous suspects in the story are all essayed by Trevor Dorner, who is able to believably and hilariously take on a multitude of characters with absolute aplomb. The book and score are quite good, but the real enjoyment comes from watching these two actors play off each other all evening. If Dorner's rapid succession of portraying all the suspects in the show can be considered the more challenging part, he never lets you see him sweat and he makes everything he does look effortless. Grieco is entirely his equal, and the two form a team that give remarkable and astonishing performances.
The principal set piece in the show is a grand piano, which the two actors take turns in playing, in an almost mind-boggling display of speed and merriment. It should also be noted that there is some audience participation, but it is all in good fun.
In addition to the atmospheric scenic design, costume designer Kate Bunce's work is just about flawless, with lighting designer Chris Bell doing a great job of illuminating the various scenes. Sound designer Rider Q. Stanton also deserves a shout-out for masterfully providing the many sound effects throughout the show.
Murder for Two is a show that is really lighter than air, offering numerous good songs and a great deal of laughter. The two actors, Dorner and Grieco, are the real heroes of the evening, as they sublimely enact the many plot points, right up to the infectious and endearing conclusion. Murder for Two at Playhouse on Park, with a delectable combination of chills and musical comedy charms, is sure to leave you with a big smile on your face.
Murder for Two, through February 3, 2019, at Playhouse in Park in West Hartford CT . For tickets, please visit www.playhouseonpark.org or call the box office at 860-523-5900.