By Kelly Romack MacBlane
The musical comedy, Murder for Two, now playing at the Marriott Theatre, follows the story of Marcus, a wannabe detective played by the talented Noel Carey as he tries to solve the murder of famed American author, Arthur Whitney. The equally talented Jason Grimm plays all of the other characters in the show, the approximately 12 suspects in the murder. On top of that…there’s no orchestra. Carey and Grimm take turns playing the piano on stage to accompany the musical numbers.
I am always blown away by performers who are able to use multiple talents at the same time and this show was no exception. Throughout the performance, I couldn’t stop being amazed at how seamlessly Grimm and Carey would move to the piano, play a song while their partner sang or sometimes while they themselves sang. Sometimes, the actors would switch who was playing in the middle of the song! No wonder in such an intimate theater, you could see the sweat dripping off Carey’s hair by the end of the show. And while Carey was great in his role as Marcus, Grimm stole the show. He would perform whole scenes switching from the deceased Whitney’s southern-belle wife, Daliah, to Whitney’s valley-girl niece and detective in training, Steph, to everyone at the party’s wheelchair-bound psychiatrist, Dr. Griff, along with many others. And each character’s distinctive voice and physicality made it clear to the audience who was speaking and interacting at all times. Of course, this led to the loud and rousing laughter that erupted in the theater throughout the performance.
While Scott Weinstein’s direction of Carey and Grimm clearly helped the actors develop some amazing characters, there were some directorial choices I questioned. For example, there were times when some cardinal rules of acting were broken that I struggled to look past. One choice that especially stood out was the use (or lack thereof) of props. Even though there were prop books scattered around the stage, the actors read imaginary, mimed books when the script called for them to look at a book (the deceased was, after all, a novelist). On a larger scale, and perhaps it was due to the nature of the size of the stage particularly in this theater in the round, even though the “body” was established to be lying in the middle of the stage at the beginning of the production, the actors moved in and out of the space where the body would be throughout the rest of the performance as if it was no longer there. Again, space was an issue on the small but rotating stage; however, maybe this could have been acknowledged as part of the “joke” of the show. Another moment I questioned was the opening of the show as the two actors entered the theater with the audience and playfully rearranged the furniture on stage. While cute, it didn’t add to the character or plot development for me.
In the end, I was impressed by the talent of the actors and I did find myself laughing out loud multiple times. While there may be room for improvement in Murder for Two, it did provide a nice evening of laughter.
Murder for Two is now playing at the Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, through August 26th. Performance times vary; check the website at the Marriott Theatre. Find more information about current plays on our Current Shows page and at theatreinchicago.com.