Murder for Two, LA

Thought provoking it ain't. But the two actor/pianists and a vaudevillian setup makes this a frothy, fluffy entertainment.

Book and Music by Joe Kinosian

Book and Lyrics by Kellen Blair

Directed by Scott Schwartz

With Jeff Blumenkrantz and Brett Ryback

Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at Geffen Playhouse, Los Angeles

May 26 – Aug 2, 2015 (original cast through July 9)

 

Yesterday I wasted quite a bit of time trying to write a theater review of “Murder for Two.” Silly me. “Murder for Two” is not a play. It is a piece of vaudeville nonsense. Viewed as such there is lots to smile at, a little to laugh at, and not much to worry your pretty little head about.

The plot is stock stuff. A novelist walks into his small-town house where his wife has gathered a few guests for a surprise party for him. Bang, he is dead. The question, dear children, is who dunnit? Each of the guests has an axe to grind against the novelist. A local cop with aspirations of becoming a detective answers the call, since the department’s real detective is an hour away. This is the wet-behind-the-ears, madcap chance to show his stuff. He has one hour to do his job; we have 96 minutes to watch him work. Brett Ryback is the cop and Jeff Blumenkrantz manically plays all the other characters including a ballerina, the corpse’s very resentful wife, and a psychiatrist who violates the first rule of psychiatric ethics: confidentiality. Oh goodie.

The stage is practically bare except for a piano that Blumenkrantz and Ryback cheerfully, and with considerable talent, tickle and pound upon, including some vigorous piano playing duels. “Murder for Two” is a period piece despite the detective’s frequent cell phone calls. There is nothing new in the music or lyrics, but they are fun and delivered with unflagging energy by the two very talented stars.

Blumenkrantz and Ryback originated the roles Off-Broadway. They have obvious chemistry and are a pleasure to watch. Blumenkrantz, in particular, is a stitch as he nimbly takes on the role of a ballerina and quickly morphs into other roles such as both halves of a bickering couple. Their energy is apparently boundless.

So what is the bottom line? If you ask me, which I presume is why you have read this far, and you are looking for good theater this month in West LA, check out the Odyssey and “Oedipus Machina” (no, I have not reviewed it, but I thoroughly enjoyed it). However if you are looking for something silly, “Murder for Two” may be your ticket. It is definitely amusing if not thought provoking. It also would be a great choice for introducing tweens and teens to live theater.

Karen Weinstein

Los Angeles ,

Weinstein is a clinical psychologist who teaches in the medical school at UCLA. She also holds a master’s degree in Urban Studies and has a strong interest in history and architecture, as well as the theater.