By Thom deMartino
“It was a dark and stormy night…” Isn’t that always how it starts? Lightning blazing, thunder crashing, underscoring the menace of the moment?
And what better setting for a mystery … or murder?
There are a scarce few shows left (so it would appear) for many theaters’ seasons for the time being: but there are a handful left for the final week of the Westminister Community Playhouse production of “Murder Runs In the Family.” Directed by Jim Katapodis, it’s the tale of the Pallfeather family, brought together one tumultuous night for the midnight reading of the last will and testament of their late patriarch, having recently passed.
But all is not what it seems with the extended family, each with their own agendas; Mirium Pallfeather (Kip Hogan), the widow and seemingly addlebrained matriarch, appears out of touch with events, leaving much of the planning to her dry-humored, long-suffering – perhaps malevolent – butler Montgomery (Michael Corcoran).
There’s the flirty blonde cousin Patricia (Niclole Kasprzyk), wedded in not-quite-bliss to Claude (Jared Rayment), the smooth but temperamental con-man; effervescent twin Kathleen – or was it Coleen? (played by Leslie Jane Doyle); mousy but quirky attorney Cleo (Mei Chow); larger-than-life Aunt Zelda (Laurie Robbins); and the mysterious, intimidating – yet strangely alluring – long-lost half-sister Maxine (Spenser Woolard)… All looking for their little (or larger) piece of the proverbial bequeathed pie.
Save for Heather Pallfeather (Robyn Couch), who’s only real motivation was bringing along her so-called fiance — in reality, private detective Jack Sparks (Steven Vogel), who knows all the tropes, the angles, the usual suspects… Or thinks he does, anyway. Heather has her suspicions that her father’s passing might not be quite so natural after all, so it’s up to the pair to suss out who may have had just the right motive, in this rogues gallery of relations.
It’ll be a night to remember – if they make it out alive, that is …
With all the tension in the air of late, “Murder” is actually a wonderfully funny and welcome diversion from current events: and as with any small gatherings, taking the common sense precautions still make this evening or matinee a worthy endeavor.
Splendid one-liners, masterful comic timing, stand out performances (hard to decide who chews the scenery more masterfully, Corcoran as Montgomery or Vogel as Jack – they’re both hysterical, albeit in different styles of comic delivery.) Woolard’s Maxine overshadows in many of her scenes with her vaguely menacing presence and deliberately monotone delivery, and Doyle’s Kathleen and Robbins’ Aunt Zelda are equally energetic and funny. And while some may be accustomed to a number of the welcome, reoccurring actors at WCP, there’s a number of debuts to the venue in this production, all bringing fresh faces and spontaneity.
All in all, “Murder Runs In the Family” is a fantastic, funny getaway from the 24/7 hype of the news cycles, and has only three performances left in its run – now’s the time to get that intimate, up-close theater experience that only live theater can provide.
“Murder Runs In the Family”, Michael Corcoran, Robyn Couch and Steven Vogel star in this zany murder mystery about the family ties that bind… And strangle… Playing through Sunday, March 22 at the Westminister Community Playhouse, 7272 Maple St, Westminster, CA 92683. Ticketing information available online at http://www.wctstage.org, or call 714-893-8626.
Categories: Arts & Leisure