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BWW Reviews: MURDER BALLAD at Actors' Playhouse

Six Inches From Sex on a Bar Top

Oh, don't worry, it's simulated. Purity maintained.

Actors' Playhouse describes their new show as immersive. And that it is. Any more immersive and skivvies and bras would be hanging from the chandeliers.

Of course, this is Murder Ballard, the pop rock opera (well, almost) that puts the audience in the lower Manhattan neighborhood bar where the bartender and his girl friend do the horizontal hoo hahs on the bar top, the billiards table and anywhere else that won't knock the patrons off their stools. Bring some neck grease, because you'll be doing the dervish whirl trying to keep up with the action just inches away.

Naturally the boy and girl split, she gets married to a gentle scholar, has a kid, and then promptly pines for the old boy friend. Even more naturally, someone gets offed, but rest easy, the blood doesn't splatter far.

And is it any good? I'll say. Four wonderfully physical actor/singers backed by a driving band build the pressure from the first minute to the eightieth. No spoken words here, just ballads and belts telling the oldest tale of them all.

It's slick direction from David Arisco as he moves his players around, on and under the furniture. Fearsome fights and lusty maulings. Oh, how the other half lives.

And these people can sing. Beautifully. Whatever it takes. The singers? The narrator is Mariand Torres; the girl friend, Sara, is Blyth Gruda; Tom the bartender is Chris Crawford and Mark Sanders is the poetry loving husband.

Eric Alsford is the musical director/conductor/keyboard player, Martha Spangler is on bass, Roy Fantel on drums and Sandy Poltarack is on guitar.

Actors' Playhouse has transformed their upstairs balcony theatre into the neighborhood hangout, the King's Club, complete with bandstand, bar, billiards table, and patron's chairs and tables. A major effort done well. A few rows of regular seating surround the stage, but if you want to see and feel the sweat, hear every brilliant note, just become part of the show, then grab a table and be prepared for a rare and exciting evening.

Murder Ballad was written by Julia Jordan and Juliana Nash with orchestration and vocal arrangements by Justin Levine. Gene Seyffer designed the set. Lights by Eric Nelson and sound by Mitch Furman. Costumes by Ellis Tillman and set dressing by Jodi Dellaventura.

It's a four week run only for Murder Ballad. It closes November 2. Actors' Playhouse, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, Miami. 305-444-9293 http://www.actorsplayhouse.org

Photo: Mark Sanders, Blythe Gruda, Chris Crawford, Mariand Torres. Photo by Alberto Romeu


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