Murder Most Foul
You've got to hand it to the Brits, they do, indeed, have a corner on the market for murder mysteries. Probably the best mystery writer in the world was Agatha Christie. And this play is very much in line with her complex plots and twists in the story.
The time is the 1950s, and the setting, a vacation house in England. It is the home of the Holts: Karen (Brenda McGinnis), the purse-strings of the family and her gad-fly husband, Howard (Glenn Chipman). He is having an affair with Julie (Suzanne Vannatter) and, well, this accident happens and all their lives are never the same again.
Something to look forward to
If I seem vague about the plot, it’s because I don’t want to give too much away, as it would spoil the several twists along the way. Let’s just say there is a nosy neighbor, a greasy garage mechanic, a bothersome maid and a Columbo-like detective that add to the intrigue of the convoluted plot. But it does have all the ingredients of the traditional thriller: Blackmail, deception, larceny, and, of course, murder.
Something "rawther" lovely
The highlight of the show was Shaye Eller as Inspector Davies. She, alone, is worth the show! The Columbo mannerisms were perfect for the character, even down to the rumpled overcoat in one scene. Davies continues to tie up those little, seemingly insignificant, loose ends until the whole plot is revealed. And, with Eller at the helm, you are cheering for her every step of the way.
Also, quite good, is Brenda McGinnis, as the long-suffering wife, Karen. She does well in showing the complexities and changing moods of the character. And Glenn Chipman, as the rotter of a husband, is a thoroughly "dislikeable" chap. One wants to boo the character off the stage.
The play is wordy and overlong, but that is the nature of these classic English mysteries. But the Director, Jaynie Roberts (also Magenta’s founder and Artistic Director), keeps the action flowing so that you always have to be on the alert for what comes next. And the British accents are spot on, which is refreshing. Doesn’t hurt to have a Director that is also from “merry ole…”
There did seem to be a mixing of genres, which was not altogether successful. At times a character might play it like a melodrama, then another character would play it as a complete, comic farce. It plays best, I think, which was most of the time, as just a straight British thriller. Eller and McGinnis played it just that way and were most successful.
The set by Dave Roberts, was very functional in such a constricted space. And the music from the '50s also helped set the mood. It should be noted that the house was nearly full on opening night and many of them were first-timers. This is a great compliment for Magenta after 10 years in the biz. Congrats!
October 13, 18, 19, 20, 24, 25 and 26 at 7:30 p.m.
October 20 and 27 at 2 p.m.
Review by Dennis Sparks. Mr. Sparks was formerly a Portland theatre reviewer for the Vancouver Voice (now defunct), and is currently a free-lance reporter with his own blog site for Portland and Ashland theatre reviews: www.dennissparksreviews.blogspot.com