Encore Michigan

Murder For Two kills at Hope Summer Rep

Review June 14, 2019 Bridgette Redman

HOLLAND, Mich.–Murder can be an awfully jolly romp in the hands of two energetic actors, a piano and a script that disregards every convention and merrily pokes fun at everything within reach.

Hope Summer Repertory brings two veteran actors to its stage for the musical comedy, Murder for Two. Directed by Magdalene Spanuello, this comedy features Paul Helm as Marcus Moscowicz, a police officer who desperately wants to be a detective, and Ben van Diepen who plays all of the suspects—a list that grows and grows throughout the show.

Each of them play the piano, sometimes for themselves, sometimes for each other, sometimes together and sometimes in what can only be described as a musical duel.

It doesn’t take long for the audience to realize this will not be a conventional murder mystery or the typical musical. In fact, it won’t even be the typical show in which two actors play hundreds of characters. Rather, it is a parody of all those things. It gleefully makes fun of all those forms, sometimes specifically, sometimes generally.

It also ignores any sort of barrier between stage and audience, frequently talking to people in the audience, referring to patrons, and sometimes even running out to talk to those running the technical elements of the show.

The pace starts out a bit slow as van Diepen has the task of introducing some of the main characters by jumping back and forth around the stage, striking different poses, different voices and wearing his jacket in different ways. Things quickly pick up pace, though, as he sometimes argues with himself, gets in brawls with himself and jumps between characters—when he wants to, he sometimes refuses to become the character that Marcus wants to interrogate and other times makes up new characters just to confuse him.

Both actors do a stupendous job of playing with the script and the characters, going big whenever the opportunity presents itself and not hesitating to play for a laugh. Their timing is exquisite, especially when singing the songs that move what passes as a plot along.

The plot? Yes, there sort of is one. A novelist has been murdered as he enters his surprise birthday party. He’s written nasty novels about everyone at the party and they all have motive to do him in. The “real” detective is an hour away so the officer pretends that he is the detective and desperately tries to solve the mystery in the allotted hour.

HSRT always creates spectacular sets and this one is no exception. Scenic Designer Stephen C. Hudson-Mairet’s mansion is tall and impressive. There are projections along the back of the stormy night sky and a moon that goes through several transformations. Alan Piotrowicz gets to design a lighting plot that adds to the comedy. The lighting is especially fun during the number “Steppin’ Out of the Shadows.”

Murder for Two takes a gleeful approach to musical mysteries, and under Spanuello’s direction, the show is a stretch of pure entertainment.

Week of 7/15/2024

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