Murder For Two ‘kills ’em’ at  Old Globe

 Joe Kinosian and Ian Lowe in Murder For Two (Photo: Joan Marcus, courtesy of The Old Globe)

Joe Kinosian and Ian Lowe in Murder For Two (Photo: Joan Marcus, courtesy of The Old Globe)

By Erin Philips

Erin Philips

Erin Philips

SAN DIEGO– Murder for Two is a madcap musical murder mystery, a two-man tour-de-force with energy, jokes and flair to spare. Created by Joe Kinosian (book and music) and Kellen Blair (book and lyrics), the comedy premiered in 2011 at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, followed by a successful run Off Broadway.

The current production stars Ian Lowe as Marcus, a police officer and wannabe detective, whose big chance to impress the Chief arrives when celebrated American novelist Arthur Whitney is murdered upon arrival at his surprise birthday party. With an hour to solve the crime before the real detective arrives, Marcus embarks on an investigation peppered with mayhem and music. As long as he adheres strictly to protocol, what could possibly go wrong?

Joe Kinosian steals the show playing all 10 guests/suspects at the party, including: Whitney’s attention-seeking wife; his ballerina lover; his criminology-studying niece; the bickering old couple next door; the town psychiatrist; and three elementary school toughs from the local boys’ choir. With a pair of glasses, multiple different accents and mannerisms, and incredible physical stamina, Kinosian brings each character distinctly to life.

The set design features a piano placed front and center, and both men skillfully accompany themselves and one another through a series of zany songs, sometimes pounding the keys side-by-side in playful competition. Doors on either side of the stage, a red curtain, and a few key props aid the narrative, but many elements of each scene are left to the audience’s imagination.

Inside jokes and physical, verbal, and visual gags abound. Marcus’ silent, offstage partner Lou, tasked with keeping an eye on the scene from outside the house, appears as Hitchcock’s shadow. The murder weapons from the classic board game Clue appear on shelves at the back of the set, and in a nod to the beloved mystery-solving cartoon, Marcus wears a Scooby Doo t-shirt beneath his button-down. The actors also frequently break the 4th wall (at one point pulling a woman from the audience up on stage to stand in for a dead body), winkingly allude to the absurdity of one man playing 10 parts, and play with the conventions of murder mysteries and musicals.

The production is slick, confident, and highly entertaining, thanks not only to the skills of the performers, but to director Scott Schwartz. Known for directing Golda’s Balcony, a play about Golda Meir (Israel’s fourth Prime Minister) and the longest-running one-woman show in Broadway history, he is an internationally acclaimed artist whose work has been seen on stages all over the world.

For a rollicking good time, check out Murder For Two through March 1 at The Old Globe in Balboa Park.

Philips is a freelance writer specializing in coverage of the arts.  Your comment may be placed in the space below or sent to [email protected]

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