Murder for Two – Review by Nancy Sasso Janis

The Ivoryton Playhouse has reopened to bring live theatre back with a production of “Murder for Two,” a fun blend of music, mayhem and murder starring only two actors, the talented Joe Kinosian and Ian Lowe.

Everyone is a suspect in this two-person murder mystery farce with music in which one actor is the detective, the other plays all 13 suspects and they both play one grand piano, often at the same time. It is a zany, high energy blend of classic musical comedy and a madcap whodunit. Each and every one of the 90 minutes makes for a highly theatrical duet filled with laughs and fun music.

Officer Marcus Moscowicz, played by Lowe, is a small town policeman with dreams of rising through the ranks to be a detective. On this fateful night, shots ring out at the surprise birthday party of Great American Novelist Arthur Whitney and the writer is murdered. With the nearest detective an hour away, Marcus eagerly jumps at the chance to prove his sleuthing skills with the help of his silent partner, Lou.

Kinosian, a member of Actor’s Equity, portrays all of the suspects who attend the surprise party. Was it Dahlia Whitney, Arthur’s scene-stealing wife? Could it have been Barrette Lewis, the prima ballerina? Or maybe it was Dr. Griff, the overly-friendly psychiatrist or one of the street-wise choir boys. Marcus tries to beat the clock and find the real killer before the real detective arrives in this homage to old-fashioned murder mysteries.

Kinosian is also the composer and co-bookwriter of “Murder For Two,” which had its World Premiere in 2011 at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Kellen Blair, who wrote the book and lyrics, is the Drama Desk nominated co-creator of “Murder For Two,” writing the book and lyrics. Since its off-Broadway run, there have been many productions across the country and around the world.

Lowe, also an Equity member, returns to Ivoryton Playhouse after last appearing in “The Woman in Black” in 2011. A Yale graduate, Lowe appeared in the off-Broadway company of “Murder for Two” at New World Stages and in the National Tour.

The well-choreographed interplay between the two actors is fascinating to watch and their comic timing is razor sharp in this “killer comedy.” Kinosian’s performance is truly a tour de force. It took a bit of time to adjust my eyes and ears to his constant shifting between the varied characters that he plays; they are men, women and even young boys. The concept is a silly, funny, free-for- all, unlike anything I have ever experienced.

The show is brilliantly directed and choreographed by Wendy Seyb. It is presented without an intermission, although this script demonstrates the need for a physical break for the actors more than most. That these two talented performers manage to make it through without a break is remarkable.

The set designed by Martin Marchitto fills the stage beautifully and allows the actors to spread out as needed. Lighting designed by Marcus Abbott was noticeably intrinsic to the action and costumes designed by Elizabeth Cipollina allowed the two actors to move.

At the preview performance, there was an issue with one of the body microphones that I am pretty sure was not completely resolved before the curtain call. Sound Designer Martin Marchitto made sure that the off stage sounds were on time.

I was impressed with this vintage theatre on my first visit to Ivoryton. While Actors Equity Union has removed the mask mandate for theatre audiences, this theatre will still be following stringent safety protocols including socially distanced seating for only 96 seats, and no concessions will be sold, except water, for this first production. They have made many improvements to the Ivoryton Playhouse for protection of the audience, including increasing the flow of outside air to 40%, installation of air purification units, contactless ticketing, increased cleaning, and hand sanitizing stations.

“Murder for Two” through August 1 with matinee performances on Wednesday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m, Friday and Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Seating is limited. Call the box office at 860.767.7318 for tickets. The vintage Ivoryton Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton.