That, in a nutshell, is Jack Sharkey's "The Murder Room" - a madcap, off-the-wall British mystery with more merriment than mayhem.
We won't even attempt to describe the frenzied plot. There's just not enough room to explain who is doing what to whom and why and how. Suffice it to say, this takes the "whodunit" genre to hilarious new heights.Director Scott Andersen has a firm grip on fast-paced British humor, with its playful, rapid-fire dialogue and energetic action. And it's all neatly packaged with one of the best ensembles we've seen - ever.
Leading the pack are T.S. Nielsen and Jane Axson as Edgar and Mavis Templeton Hollister. Until now, Axson's made her mark in a large number of musical productions. "The Murder Room" is her first non-musical role, and she demonstrates a perfect sense of timing (in a show where the comedic lines must be delivered with stop-watch accuracy).
Nielsen, last seen as the Major General in "Pirates of Penzance" and in shows at Desert Star Playhouse, keeps right up with her as the just-married husband she would love to eliminate. How she goes about it - and whether or not she succeeds - we cannot divulge, but Nielsen is a gifted actor in a role that has a few clever tricks up its sleeve.
Others in the finely tuned cast include Annette Wright as Lottie Malloy, the Hollisters' mind-of-her-own maid; Ryan Bowen as Inspector James Crandall; Alysa Revell-Greenhalg as Susan, Edgar's daughter; Allan Versteeg as Barry Draper, Susan's Texas millionaire fiance, and Harlan Jones as Constable Abel Howard.
The cast appears to be having almost as much fun as the audience as the investigation into Edgar Hollister's disappearance progresses over one July weekend in 1925.
Two of the real stars of this fun-and-games production are the sets and costuming. It's no secret that the father-son team of Clif and J. Chad Davis is among the most gifted and creative in the region. On what is essentially a lecture hall stage, they've created the lovely parlor of Bynewood Cottage - a home that Hollister built with a labyrinth of secret doors, hidden stairways, secret rooms and even secret drawers (perfect for stashing a loaded target pistol).
Diane Allen's costumes are right on target, too - especially Mavis Hollister's stylish dresses.
Duane Woodruff also deserves kudos for his sound and lighting work. The sound effects in this show are another key element that have to jibe perfectly with the rapid-clip comedy.
"The Murder Room" is definitely not a "thinking man's" production - unless all you think about is having fun. It's just a sit back, get comfortable and have a carefree night out at the theater kind of play.
It's a nifty little comedy done very well.