THE TWO ERICS ARE THE PERFECT COMIC TEAM TO BRING OVER A DOZEN CHARACTERS TO LIFE AND A BOOK OF WITTY SONGS
CenterREP opens its 51 season with a frenzy murder mystery that will keep you smiling. MURDER FOR TWO is a two-character spoof by Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair who both penned the book & lyrics. The delightful romp is now on stage at the Margaret Lesher stage through October 6th. Directed by Paul Mason Barnes founder of the award winning Oregon Cabaret Theatre. CenterREP Artistic Director Michael Butler calls MFT a cocktail celebration “It is a fabulously written musical with two actors, four hands and 13 characters and one piano.” Broadway vets Eric Shorey and Eric Van Tielen bring a rich “who done it” to the fast paced wacky musical. It is a season of Murder Mysterys on Bay Area stages, I just had fun at SHN’s THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG, and THE 39 STEPS out at TheatreWorks, but these two actors bring the best of both to Walnut Creek.
MURDER FOR TWO is a wild typhoon of comedic energy. The murder mystery steamrolls over goofball storylines like the perfect Benny Hill capper. Some of the show’s elements are a bit predictable, and a few of the gags don’t always work. But driven by vibrant performances from the two Erics and exceptional design work by Bill Clark’s set and props, the good-natured tale of bloody murder is a vaudville hit.
The story at times can be difficult to follow: A Legendary novelist Arthur Whitney’s surprise birthday party goes slightly awry when the guest of honor is shot in the head by an unknown killer. Marcus Moscowicz played by the marvelous Eric Van Tielen, a by-the-book cop who really wants to be a detective, takes charge of the investigation. The suspects are many and played with comic class by Eric Shorey include: Whitney’s widow, Dahlia, his grad student niece, Steph, ballerina, Barrette Lewis, grumpy psychiatrist, Dr. Griff, and a bickering old couple Murray and Barb. All suspects with only a short window of time to investigate before the real detective shows up, Marcus must plunge head first into a world of criminal lunacy in order to crack the case.
The songs move the fun along including the Marcus song “Protocol Says” and “He Needs a Partner”. Both actors are clever on the keys and Shorey sings “It was Her” and becomes a group of preteens singing “A Lot Woise”. Both actors show off their keen voices and dance skills. Shorey’s passion for playing a dozen roles shines through in his dedicated, madcap performance in which he flips with ease from one character to another. He gives each of the suspects a unique and lively persona using nothing but his physicality, a hat, and a pair of glasses. Watching Shorey twist his face and voice into each new figure is impressive, he wonderfully uses their characters to bring the play’s world of mystery to life. Both actors’ drive is staggering, and they energize the show with a terrific Agatha Christie punch.
Van Tielen does an excellent job as Marcus the “straight man” stuck in a whirlwind of madness. Van Tielen’s “deer in headlights” look reflects the audience’s reaction that some of the mystery is not easy to follow. Van Tielen’s performance is more than lively enough to keep up with the play’s non stop pace. Director Barnes proves to be an excellent maestro. The production could spiral out of control without a steady hand. Barnes’ direction includes the audience as one or two are asked to come on stage, and the house lights come up whenever a cell phone goes off.
The musical is centered around the grande piano with the two actors taking turns playing the keys while the other sings. This stripped down approach to the show’s over-the-top slapstick comedy gives MURDER FOR TWO a keen vaudevillian feel. Jeff Mockus’ sound design layers sound effects into the action of the play with perfect timing. Bill Clark’s set is straightforward with plenty of flips and turns that are unexpected. Lonnie Rafael Alcaraz’s cabaret feel lighting design is bright and uses pools of spot lights to highlight all the character changes for Shorey.
By the time we hear the line, “Excuse me, I need someone to die for me while I play the piano,” the audience is exhausted by the hokum. With over 15 songs the most inspired bit in the two hours is the encore — a triumph of four-handed piano virtuosity that closes the case with pageant. MURDER FOR TWO is the best romp to open your fall season of theatre. The musical creates a delightful hilarious “whodunit” that doesn’t really matter who did what. Next up at the CenterREP is NATIVE GARDENS by Karen Xacarias that opens October 18th. Just announced Lin-Manuel Miranda’s IN THE HEIGHTS opens May 22, 2020. But in the mean time don’t miss the two Erics in the “must see” murder mystery of the fall and bring your own chalk to out line all the bodies! .
CENTER REP PRESENTS
Murder for Two
Book and Music By Joe Kinosian
Book and Lyrics By Kellen Blair
Directed By Paul Mason Barnes
Eric Shorey and Eric Van Tielen
Oct 6th, 2019
Center REPertory Company
1601 Civic Drive in downtown Walnut Creek.
Two Hours with an intermission
Photos by Kevin Berne www.kevinberne.com
VMEDIA ARTS "GO SEE A SHOW" TALKS TO ERIC AND ERIC
THE TWO ERICS ON THE KEYS
MICHEAL BUTLER TALKS WITH THE ACTORS