You wouldn’t think a two-person play about a suspicious homicide would make it difficult to deduce who the killer is, but in the case of Murder for Two, you’d be dead wrong.
The rambunctious and frenetic musical comedy opened this past weekend in the Garner Galleria Theatre at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) after several lauded years on the off-Broadway theater scene, and the show’s wry and rowdy humor combined with its breakneck pace creates a story that’s both gripping and droll.
One person we can firmly assign responsibility for the chaotic farce is Joe Kinosian, who co-wrote the script and stars alongside Ian Lowe. While Lowe plays a single character—the lovable but hapless aspiring detective who’s earnestly trying to solve a murder of the guest of honor at a surprise birthday party before his boss shows up—it’s Kinosian’s performance that demands the bulk of the 90-minute play’s literal and figurative gymnastics.
Kinosian’s “part” requires him to play eight or 10 different characters (I lost count) and rapidly switch between them using a dazzling array of physical tics, gestures, and accents, along with the deft handling of subtle props, most notably a pair of comically large black-framed eyeglasses.
Through it all, Kinosian and Lowe pinball around the Galleria’s small stage in a sort of madcap ballet, swapping seats at the piano (and sometimes sharing the bench) for everything from pithy punctuating riffs to full-length musical numbers. Both men are virtuoso pianists, and the intensity of the action requires levels of timing and energy that are simply astonishing.
As for the plot itself, Murder for Two is campy, self-referential, and hilarious, with jaunty songs that methodically illuminate every plot twist—including the one you never see coming. In conceiving such an energetic and playful spin on the Christie-esque thriller, Lowe, Kinosian and his collaborator, Kellen Blair, have solved the mystery of what it takes to produce an exceptionally fun night of theater.
Murder for Two runs through February 21, 2016. For tickets and showtimes, visit the DCPA’s website.
—Follow 5280 editor-at-large Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.