BWW Review: A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER at City Springs Theatre
On Friday evening, City Springs Theatre opened a dazzling, well-sung production of the 2012 Tony Award-winning stage farce A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, securing the theatre's place among the best professional theatres in Atlanta. The production, a pure technical delight, showcases gorgeous scenic design by Alexander Dodge and spot-on costuming by Linda Cho. The most delightful thing, though, is the fantastic turn by Atlanta favorite Googie Uterhardt as ... well ... the whole D'Ysquith family.
The story of Monty Navarro (Haden Rider) begins on the eve of his possible execution as he sits in jail writing his memoirs. We learn that Monty, a social nobody, is hoping to win the love of Sibella Hallward (Leigh Ellen Jones). Unfortunately for Monty, Sibella is a social climber who wouldn't think of marrying a nobody like Monty. Silly, silly fun ensues when Monty finds out that he's ninth in line to inherit the earldom of Highhurst and begins to see a real hope for his future with Sibella, especially if he can jump the line of succession by killing the heirs who stand in his way.
Dodge's scenic design, which presents a gorgeous stage within a stage that frames most of the scenes, practically functions as a principal character as it cleverly moves us to all of the disparate settings for Monty's murders: the top of a tower, a fragrant garden, a skating pond, just to name a few. In one magical scene, paintings on the walls slide away to reveal actors playing the portraits' subjects. In another, the heads of the busts on the intricately detailed stage swing in to allow actors' heads to replace them. It's a whole wonderful spectacle, superbly complemented by the fun video projections that help us to fully appreciate moments like the first victim, Reverend Lord Ezekial D'Ysquith's, fall from a high tower and the ensuing splat on the concrete.
Like Dodge's scenic design, Linda Cho's richly detailed costume design is heavily inspired by the original Broadway production. And that's great because Cho's costumes perfectly depict the pretensions of London high society in 1907. Each costume of each D'Ysquith victim (for instance, a turn-of-the-century bodybuilding suit with a quite exaggerated ... crotch area) perfectly characterizes its owner, a particularly important victory in this show since the entire line of heirs is played by one man.
The company of players is capable and each approaches the operetta-style score with ease, but by far the most skilled at the farce is Googie Uterhardt. He portrays characters ranging from a country squire to Lady Salome (a very bad actress) to a social climbing spinster philanthropist. Each of his characters is hilariously rendered, and his wonderful slapstick exaggerations of his characters' respective (and mostly appalling) character traits are a joy to watch.
You. Dexter. American Psycho. A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder is but one entry in a growing catalogue of dizzyingly popular stories about serial killers. The thing that makes this entry stand out is the fact that the tuner, with super clever lyrics and book by Robert Freedman and Steven Lutvak, renders Monty so likable in the midst of such a heinously premeditated murder spree. At the time of its premiere, The New York Times called the show "entertainment most merry," and that definitely holds true here at City Springs. I guess you could say they've put on a killer comedy.
A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder plays through March 15 at City Springs Theatre.
For tickets and info, visit https://www.cityspringstheatre.com/