BWW Review: A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER at Faust Theater
Pity the bastard son. When young Montgomery Navarro (Daniel Verschelden) discovers he is of noble blood, he is determined to fight his way into the graces of the D'Ysquiths if he has to cut down every last one of them. Based on the dark comedy Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal by Roy Horniman, it involves the young Navarro slicing and dicing his way through the eight members of the family between him and the Earldom he feels rightfully his.
Movie fans will of course immediately draw a connection to the Alec Guiness classic Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), and indeed the movie was inspired by the same book, with only minor plot points and name changes differentiating the two. Likewise, Guide is a musical, with several very bright numbers with lyrics loaded with clever wordplay.
One thing that has been carried over from the film is the casting of one person to play all of the D'Ysquiths that fall in succession to young Navarro's ambition. In the current production, Zach Faust does the honors, and really does an excellent job, flipping from one character to another and another over the course of the two-and-a-half-hour runtime. No mean feat from any perspective, and yet he does manage to pull it off with distinct characterizations and humor from beginning to end.
Overall the production went well. Music was provided by Caleb McCarroll and Alex Birchwale, who played not only live but on stage: not a decision one sees very often but here it works quite well. Overall the performances were competent, even if sometimes the music drowned out some bits of dialogue. In fact, the only real issue lay in the wood-look flooring with which the Arts Asylum stage had been decorated. Something about it made even the lightest step sound like a high school gymnasium, and any moment with more than one person moving about wound up sounding like an impromptu tap-dance number. It was a shame, as this really did get in the way.
Still in all, the production is very enjoyable. The deliciously twisted material is holding up extremely well, given that the source novel is 102 years old. No doubt the story will find its way into other media in the fullness of time, and this reviewer has no doubt it will still be as enjoyable there. In the meantime, Gentleman's Guide is running at the Arts Asylum through the end of the month.