Murder for Two

by Stu Brown

My favorite theater genres are:
1. Musicals
2. Comedies
3. Murder Mysteries

Happily, all three are embodied in the very funny, ingeniously written, and energetically performed two person show, Murder for Two, playing at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven through August 30th.

All the action takes place on a small stage with the only accouterments being a baby grand piano, a few props, and one’s imagination. As with many whodunits, the story begins in a large, hilltop mansion where the wife of author Arthur Whitney is throwing him a surprise birthday party. Unfortunately for the book writer, when he arrives inside the darkened structure a gun is fired, fatally killing him. Who fired the fateful shot? There is a house full of suspects -- each one nimbly and uproariously portrayed by Kyle Branzel -- every one of them with solid motives. Enter would-be detective Marcus Moscowicz, played with equal comic dexterity by Ian Lowe, who methodically, or maybe more accidentally, happens upon the multitude of clues and red herrings to eventually solve the case.

The two actors have a finely honed chemistry that translates into unbridled zaniness and semi-controlled madness. Kyle Branzel sometimes seems possessed as he ricochets from one character to another, making each one as believable as the next. Ian Lowe has only one character to focus on but, nonetheless, needs all his comedic acting prowess to stay in sync with his tall, lanky partner.

The score, by Joe Kinosian, who also wrote the amusing and clever book of the show, and Kellen Blair, is quick-witted and tuneful. It would be interesting to hear fully orchestrated versions of each tune. All the songs are performed by Branzel and Lowe, who also demonstrate their considerable musicianship by accompanying each other on the on-stage piano.

Director Scott Schwartz expertly guides the two thespians through the fast-paced production, coming up with enough shtick and sidesplitting shenanigans for two shows.

Murder for Two, inventive and diabolically funny.

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