BWW Review: Bring in the New Year Laughing by Going TO MOCK A KILLING BIRD at Theatre Downtown
"To Mock a Killing Bird!" is an improvised murder mystery comedy that is a New Years staple in the city of Birmingham. For ten years the Extemporaneous Theatre Company (ETC) has delivered this comedy performance to ring in the New Year. Every performance is new, fresh and full of madcap plot devices, evidence and hilarious characters. The formula is simple and easy to follow. One improvist takes on the role of a host throwing a big dinner party at their palatial mansion. The audience is asked to provide the theme of three rooms on the estate and the murder weapon that comes into play. A handful of other improvists arrive as already flushed out comical characters. As they mingle, motives for the Host's demise begin to surface. The end to the first act is the discovery of the Host's body right after their death. The second act picks up shortly thereafter. The improvist who played the Host returns as a completely new detective character, ready to solve the crime.
The joy in this show is found in the fun natured cast who work well together. Pulling off an engaging and funny murder mystery is not as easy feat to achieve. You have to be able to juggle multiple characters, plot devises and conversations. ETC does this with a playful enthusiasm. The talented cast of improvisors rotates for each show. At the performance I attended Andrew Willmore played the host and detective who were both Christmas elves. The party guests were a salty sea captain (Rich Mansfield), a hack author (Douglas O'Neil, Jr.), a 2-bit psychic (Debbie Smith), a toast enthusiast (Catherine Champion). The audience suggestions for the three rooms were a tiny red room, a distillery, and a toyshop. The murder weapon given was a DVD set of Steven Segal movies. This template led for a laugh filled story. The pace was steady and the actors committed to the roles with much enthusiasm. The smart comedy was well orchestrated by the players and flowed smoothly. "To Mock a Killing Bird!" is a hilarious way to wrap up the holiday season. This is a very limited run and has one more performance tonight and the final performance is on New Years Eve.
Cast - Mike Cunliffe, Catherine Champion, Douglas O'Neil, Jr. , Christopher Davis, Andrew Willmore, Debbie Smith, Rich Mansfield,
Extemporaneous Theatre Company Presents "To Mock a Killing Bird!"
Theatre Downtown. 2410 Fifth Avenue South Birmingham, AL . 35233 (inside Fifth Avenue Antiques)
Advance Tickets: Dec 30 - $8 / Dec 31 - $12 or at the Door: Dec 30 - $10 / Dec 31 - $15
For tickets and more info: www.etcbham.org