Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Murder for Two
The plot is simplePolice Officer Marcus, desiring to be promoted to Detective, gets his chance to prove his worth when he must discover the killer of famous novelist Arthur Whitney, who was murdered at his surprise birthday party. All of the partygoers had a motive, as it turns out. Whitney turned them all into not exactly fictional characters in his books, with secrets revealed about each of them.
Kinosian inhabits a dozen kooky characters effortlessly, distinguished easily from each other by just the addition of a simple prop such as a pair of glasses, a baseball cap, or an accent, and an abundance of movements from his sleek, agile body. He is superb at bringing them all to life, from Whitney's widow Dahlia, to his nosy, wannabe sleuth niece Steph, the somewhat insane psychiatrist Dr. Griff, and even, on his knees, a trio of street-smart prepubescent boys. It's a remarkable performance. As Marcus, Ian Lowe has the appropriate level of determination to make the character seem realistic and nicely plays the depressed backstory of the role. Lowe and Kinosian not only make a nice potential romantic pair as Marcus and Steph but they each both are proficient piano players, providing the musical accompaniment for the piece. The many times the two of them effortlessly change places at the onstage baby grand in the middle of a song is quite impressive.
While the show is somewhat charming, has several fun moments, and is mostly painless, there are some negative points. Scott Schwartz' fast-paced direction and Kinosian and Kellen Blair's overstuffed book amount to a lot going on at a quick speed with not much actually sticking or being relevant. Sure, it's great fun and highly theatrical to see one man play a dozen characters, especially as skillfully as Kinosian does. But not all of the parts are fleshed out, which creates a dizzying effect from the never-ending parade of lesser established characters (the bickering couple, for example) that ends up being a deterrent to the overall impact of the musical.
Kinosian's music and Blair's lyrics are mostly good, though the overabundance of similar sounding songs makes the plot-driven score appear muddy. Steph's sweet, slow and heartfelt "He Needs a Partner" is a standout; the rest of the songs are basically forgettable. The shtick of Murder for Two wears down toward the end, and the inclusion of Dahlia's very bad solo number that has nothing to do with the plot is almost laughable. SPOILER ALERT: while the revelation of who stole Dahlia's ice cream is quite creatively delivered, the murderer is someone you would never guess, which is not a good plot move.
Murder for Two at Arizona Theatre Company runs through January 18th, 2015, at the Herberger Theater Center, 222 E. Monroe Street in Phoenix. Tickets can be purchased at www.arizonatheatre.org or by calling (602) 256 6995. Information about tour locations and dates after the Phoenix run can be found at murderfortwomusical.com
Book & Music by Joe Kinosian
*Member Actors Equity Association