Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears (and paws and tails). Allow me to tell you about one of my favorite plays in New York. (It’s not Julius Caesar, but I did see a great production set in a women’s prison last weekend at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn—no cats, though. Lame.)
My dad-human is an occasional cog in the machine at a local off-Broadway theatre. He wears nice slacks, sweater vests, and button downs that are great for sleeping on and leaving my fur. He tells me he is the “house manager.”
Recently, I was happy to accompany my humans to the final dress rehearsal of a show called Murder for Two, which had transferred from a run last summer at dad’s theatre to New World Stages in Midtown. Dad had gushed, so I wanted to see what the fuss was all about.
In basic terms, Murder for Two is a musical murder mystery as enacted by two players (Jeff Blumenkrantz and Brett Ryback) and a piano. The plot is set in motion with the murder of famed novelist Arthur Whitney. Ryback plays the investigator, Marcus, a young cop who is gunning for detective, while Blumenkrantz plays… everyone else. And by everyone, I mean everyone—Dahlia, Whitney’s resentful former-showgirl wife; Barrette, the beautiful ballet dancer with a penchant for murder; Dr. Griff, the friendly local psychologist who just wants a best friend; an entire boys’ choir, and many, many more. It’s a classic whodunit with a twist, or a couple.
The main twist, and one of the things that makes the show such a pleasure, is that Ryback and Blumenkrantz accompany themselves and each other on the piano. The piano becomes a third character—sometimes as a tool when Marcus wants to convice Dr. Griff to talk in a best-friend-song, sometimes as a nuisance (one character has to run from his deathbed to the piano so that he can “have some music while” he dies), and sometimes as the competitive playing field for impressive four-hand piano stunts (all three players—Ryback, Blumenkrantz, and the piano—have incredible chemistry).
The other element which elevates the show from the predictable is how funny it is. My humans are quick to laughter, which I find irritating since it makes their laps bouncy, but I’m a bit more serious. However, the witty lyrics and book, the impressive physical comedy, and most of all, the tongue-in-cheek, fast-paced, meta-theatrical humor feels very current, and had me about as close as I can come to cracking a smile.
As for the cats… Well. None appear onstage. It’s really a disgrace. I don’t know why a cat couldn’t have been a suspect. Blumenkrantz would have nailed it, considering the skill with which he inhabited around fourteen other roles. Alas, no one consulted me in the construction of this show, so we have to settle for two offstage cats. Two items are hurled offstage—after the first, we hear a pitiful meow, and after the second, a loud roar. I am told no cats (or lions) were hurt in the making of this show.
All in all, despite the lack of cats, Murder for Two is absolutely worth seeing. My humans have seen it three times (perks of working in the theatre, I guess), and enjoy it more each go.
As for the final Pawprint Plot, Murder for Two clocks in at…
30 points. Still, go see Murder for Two at New World Stages!