Murder for Two, or How to Slay an Audience

By J.P. Faber

The final production of the season for Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre is just what you want for a summer musical – pure entertainment. At the end of this uninterrupted romp you simply want more.

The plot is simple enough: A police officer is called to the scene of a murder, a birthday party turned deadly in a country house where all the guests have a motive to kill their host. This particular cop is dying to become a detective (pun intended), so he has 90 minutes to solve the crime before the real detective arrives.

The wanna-be-detective is played by Mark Scenfisch, who does an admirably over-the-top campy job portraying the enthusiastic officer in pursuit of justice. He is also a talented piano player and singer.

But what steals the show is the chameleon-like Martin Landry, who plays all 10 suspects. Using just minor props, he moves in and out of characters that range from a charming Southern belle to a hunchback psychiatrist. And he is nothing less than brilliant. Few actors can convincingly portray a sexy ballerina while sporting a full beard. But he does.

Landry is also a skilled piano player, and part of the fun is watching these two virtuosos trade licks on the ivories as they move through the musical numbers. When they play at the same time it brings to mind the musical hijinks of Chico and Harpo Marx.

The play is staged in the upstairs Balcony Theater of the Miracle, a perfectly intimate space for such one-on-one performing, where the action lies in the talent and not in huge production staging.

To be perfectly honest, when artistic director David Arisco announced to the audience that we would be witnessing the play for an uninterrupted 90 minutes, I thought, “How will I get through this?” But by the end, I actually wanted the play to go on: For that hour and a half, the amusing gyrations, clever dialogue (and also silly, in the vein of Police Squad or Airplane), and jaunty show tunes were completely entertaining.

There are two more weeks left to see Murder for Two, and we can think of no better way to end the theater season than with such an energetic gem. This is fast-paced, non-stop entertainment that is full of life and laughs, a perfect antidote to the summer doldrums.

Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre 280 Miracle Mile 8 p.m. Wednesday – Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday Tickets: $30 – $75 305-444-9293