BWW Review: MURDER FOR TWO Delivers Laugh-Out-Loud Murder & Mayhem at Milwaukee Repertory Theater
Confession: They had to resuscitate me before I could write this post because I had died from laughter. Somehow the Milwaukee Repertory Theater keeps one-upping itself with the sheer joy it's bringing to the stage at the Stackner Cabaret. Murder for Two, running now through January 14th, is a mix of music, murder, and mayhem - or as Joe Kinosian, the show's co-author and Milwaukee High School of the Arts alumnus, calls it: "a love letter to musical theater, screwball comedy, and partnership."
The 90-minute, intermission-free musical comedy features a whopping 13 characters played by just two actors. Sweet-voiced and charming, Matt Edmonds plays would-be detective Marcus Moscowicz. Aforementioned Milwaukeean and co-author of Murder for Two, Joe Kinosian, plays the zany lineup of most unusual suspects. Both fellas play the piano and sing and sweat their faces off. As far as musical talent goes, these guys are good - really good.
In a nutshell, the story pays homage to classic murder-mystery plots: A mixed bag of folks holed up in a giant house, a sudden lethal gunshot, a new detective on scene, and the big question - whodunnit? I'm happy to report that Murder for Two keeps you guessing 'til the end. It's hilarious fun to watch Kinosian tackle his own spectrum of suspects - the merry widow, the quarreling married couple, the melodramatic ballerina, the cagey psychiatrist.
I don't dare name them all, as half the fun is watching Kinosian pull character after character out of his magic hat. How one man can not only keep all those personalities straight but also bring them to life with such rapid-fire fluidity is absolutely astounding. At bow-taking time, I couldn't jump to my feet fast enough to give the Milwaukee native an insanely well-deserved standing ovation.
Of course, as Kinosian said, Murder for Two isn't just a love letter to screwball comedy - it's also an ode to partnership. Though one might deduce that Kinosian's multiple personalities will forever steal the show, such characters would surely fall by the wacky wayside without a more cool and collected foil.
Enter Matt Edmonds' "Detective" Moscowicz, an officer on a quest to solve the mystery and prove his worth. Edmonds lends a dash of heart to the otherwise crazy-funny plot and rides the wave of Kinosian's antics without skipping a beat. It's a marvel that he can make it through the show without bursting out laughing; I know the opening night crowd in the Stackner Cabaret could barely contain their own hysteric bursts. Kinosian calls it "Marx Bros.-style escapism." I call it a must-see.
Photo Credit: Michael Brosilow