A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder -- Tuneful, Inventive Staging and Great Fun for All
By Bob and Karen Isaacs
BOB: Hurrah for Darko Tresnjak for his clever direction of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder now at Hartford Stage.
KAREN: The musical, with book by Robert L. Freedman, is predictable but Tresnjak’s clever usage of theatrical techniques brings a delightful freshness to a familiar plot.
BOB: If you have seen the classic British film Kind Hearts and Cornets, with Alex Guiness, you will recognize the plot, but it is actually based on a 1907 English novel. In it, Monty Navarro, played cleverly by Ken Barnett, makes his way up the ladder of succession to become Lord D’Ysquith, Earl of Highhurst and takes over the manor house. Achieving this, of course, depends on the demise of at least eight relatives closer in line -- some die fortuitously and some need a little help from him.
KAREN: Jefferson May, a Connecticut born actor, seems to be make a specialty of playing multiple roles. On Broadway he won numerous awards and critical acclaim playing all the roles in I Am My Own Wife. Now he plays all of Monty’s relatives -- both male and female. You will be enthralled with his multiple performances.
BOB: This is great fun, particularly with Tresnjak's staging and the set by Alexander Dodge which makes use of a Victorian theater set on the stage and a walkway around some of the audience.
KAREN: The music by Steven Lutfak and lyrics by Freedman and Lutfak are tuneful and often very funny. They capture the various characters. I really liked the opening “A Warning to the Audience,” and “I Don’t Understand the Poor,” plus “I’ve Decided to Marry You,” among others.
BOB: The choreography by Peggy Hickey incorporates the Victorian style. One of the complications that Monty encounters is romantic in nature. He has two loves -- his first, who marries another because Monty has no money at that point, and later one of his cousins who decides she wants him. Monty is truly attracted to both. Lisa O’Hare and Chilina Kennedy, as the two women, are clearly difficult to resist or to choose between.
KAREN: Rest assured that it all turns out satisfactorily. This is a world premier that was developed at the Sundance Institute Theater Lab. It will surely have a future after Hartford Stage.
BOB: You will have a delightful time at A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder which is at Hartford Stage through November 11.
This review aired on WNHU-FM, 88.7 and www.wnhu.net