|Kirsten Salpini & Jared Troilo in "Murder by Two"|
(photo: Mark S. Howard)
As anyone who recalls playing the popular board game Clue can attest, murder can be fun. The perpetrators of the musical comedy Murder for Two now playing at Lyric Stage Company were no doubt aware of this, and attempted to provide a murder mystery with innumerable possible suspects. With an unfunny Book written by Joe Kinosian (who also composed the undistinguished music) and Kellen Blair (who also wrote the predictable lyrics) they created a whirlwind of largely unmemorable cliches of the genre in a rapid-fire ninety minutes or more. First developed as far back as 2011, their musical made it to New York in 2013, where it somehow garnered nominations for Drama Desk and Critics' Circle Awards, and ran for six months. Go figure. A simple murder mystery, it is chock full of hoary cliches of the genre, undoubtedly meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but barely at a high school sophomoric level. There were about a half dozen laugh-centric moments; the rest were laughable, that is, not in a good way. One character references “the slow and painful deterioration of the American theater”, with no real sense of self-reflective irony.
It seems that the murder of novelist Arthur Whitney, at his surprise birthday party in an isolated mansion in present-day New England, has no end of suspects. It falls to Officer Marcus Moscowitz (Jared Troilo), aspiring to detectivedom, to solve the case and winnow out the guilty party from the many Usual Suspects (all played by Kirsten Salpini). Could it have been Whitney's widow Dahlia, the ballerina Barrette Lewis, the married couple Barb and Murray, the psychiatrist Dr. Griff, Whitney's niece grad student Steph or the trio (Timmy, Yonkers and Skid, not a law firm) of members of a boys' choir? Or the latecomer Henry Vivaldi? At the end of the show, it's not so much about who's exposed as it is about who isn't. But by then, who cares?
As Directed by A. Nora Long, there is a huge amount of energy both in front of and behind the curtain. Troilo has an established resume locally, but relative newcomer Salpini may be miscast in roles (usually, but not always, played by a male) requiring more variance in pitch for presenting such an array of distinctive characters. For the record, the Music Direction is by Bethany Aiken, with minimal Choreography by David Connolly, clever Scenic Design by Shelley Barish, quite apt Costume Design by Tobi Rinaldi, effective Lighting Design by Heather M. Crocker, and terrific surround-Sound Design by Andrew Duncan Will.
One is typically urged at Lyric performances, tongue in cheek, that if one doesn't like the production, please don't say anything. So be it.