Regional Roundup

BWW Review: MURDER FOR TWO at Marriott Theatre

BWW Review: MURDER FOR TWO at Marriott Theatre

It's difficult to remember the last show that made me laugh as much as the Marriott Theatre's MURDER FOR TWO. It was probably THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG, which is currently reigning as the longest-running play on Broadway and soon to embark on a national tour. Murder mystery farces are clearly in fashion, but MURDER FOR TWO falls into a delightful subgenre of its own for two main reasons. First, in this two-man show, one actor plays the cop and the other plays ALL the suspects-an ingenious premise for a comedy. Second, the score (with music by Joe Kinosian and lyrics by Kellen Blair) demands a formidable level of musicianship-and some acrobatic piano-playing-from both actors. In this production, directed by Scott Weinstein, Noel Carey and Jason Grimm fully deliver on all levels, with hilarious physical comedy, dead-on delivery of every punch line, and some wicked skills on the piano.

Pre-show, Carey and Grimm are out on stage working the audience with their antics as they 'prep' the scenery. (Fair warning: sit at least four rows back if you're not into audience participation). When the performance officially begins, Jason Grimm snaps into character(s) as the guests arrive to a surprise birthday party for famous novelist Arthur Whitney. Inevitably, disaster ensues, and Whitney is killed by a mysterious shot in the dark. Enter Marcus Moscowicz (Noel Carey), a young police officer who is eager to solve the crime and earn his promotion to detective. But will he and his silent partner, Lou, find the murderer before the real detective arrives to take over the case?

As Marcus, Carey is endearing and very funny in his own right; together, he and Grimm are comedic gold. Grimm plays a total of ten suspects: repressed diva-turned-housewife Dahlia Whitney, seductive ballerina Barrette Lewis, affable psychiatrist Dr. Griff, and geeky grad student Stephanie Whitney are only a few stand-outs in the eclectic lineup. Scott Davis's rotating set neatly accommodates these high-energy performances, with clever hiding spots for different characters' props among the antique furniture. Indeed, part of the fun is the way in which new characters unexpectedly pop out of the woodwork throughout the show. With such rich material and an impressive arsenal of comedic powers, Carey and Grimm keep the audience in stitches for 90 minutes straight.

And I've barely touched on the music. While I came to the show hoping for some good laughs, I didn't anticipate the jaw-dropping quality of the cast's musicianship. In addition to singing, the jazz-infused score calls for both actors to play the piano in every possible configuration: soloing, accompanying, self-accompanying, and in duet. Carey and Grimm's performances are an entertainment act in itself, as they strike crazy poses at the keyboard and toss musical phrases back and forth with ease. While the individual tunes aren't particularly memorable, the score suits the book (also by Kinosian and Blair) perfectly; the songs serve as the medium for many of the characters' funniest moments and brilliantly showcase these two multi-talented performers.

Quite simply, this is an unmissable production if you enjoy an evening of side-splitting laughter in the theater (and really, who doesn't?). Finally, hats off to Noel Carey and Jason Grimm for making this mammoth two-man effort look like so much fun.

MURDER FOR TWO runs through August 26 at the Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, IL 60069. Tickets are available at 847-634-0200 or www.marriotttheatre.com.

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From This Author Emily McClanathan

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