Murder mystery drops the fourth wall in Bloody Murder
It's Cabin in the Woods meets Agatha Christie. Whodunnit is a good start, but who made them do it is a better question.
Ed Sala's Bloody Murder, playing at Lake Country Playhouse, follows all of the archetypes of your standard murder mystery - the drunk, the soldier, the matriarch, the maid, and more - as they become self aware of their fictionality and decide to rebel against the author's wishes. Chaos and bloodshed ensue!
All photos courtesy of Jim Baker. Mike Crowley and Rebecca Richards in Bloody Murder.
First and foremost, director Andrea Ewald deserves massive credit for her innovation with the piece. The performance starts not at showtime, but as soon as you arrive in the theatre. The lobby has been artfully transformed to represent the elegance of an era long past. Cast members will greet you, serve you, and inspect you, giving you a taste of what's to come. In a story where the actors become aware that their circumstances are fake, the audience meets them halfway in an atmosphere that makes the story real.
Amy Wickland, Sara Sarna, and Mike Owens.
The ensemble itself is balanced. There is a satisfying concoction of dry comedy and outrageous caricatures. The casting of Amy Wickland as Lady Somerset's avaricious and lusty nephew is a particular unexpected delight, the role initially written for a masc performer. The role now reads far more tongue-in-cheek than it would worn traditionally.
Robert Hurd and Mike Owens.
Delivering the flip-side is Robert Hurd as washed-up actor Devon Tremaine. With an understated performance played opposite his extravagant castmates, he becomes more compelling in his quiet. You can't help but tune in when he speaks up, knowing he will drop a snide sarcastic rebuff on the current action before returning to the bottle. For LCP regulars who rarely see Hurd tread the boards, this is a special treat.
It would be amiss to not mention the fantastic bonus performances from Zackary Henke and Natalie Wanasek. They're familiar faces to patrons already by the time they make their first appearance, as they each bartend and usher preshow. However, just as tensions get high and blood is spilled onstage, audiences can depend on Henke and Wanasek swiftly entering and exiting the scene with a recurring bit. Once the audience is in on it, you look forward to seeing them every time stakes get high.
Sara Sarna, Rebecca Richards, Robert Hurd, and Evelyn Ewald.
The text itself, by outwardly rebelling against the tropes of a murder mystery, incidentally uses the tropes just as heavily as its conventional counterpart. As such, the production is a rollicking night for fans of the genre. It could benefit from a faster pace to nudge audiences from one bit into the next, but is otherwise well-executed.
Due to the title of the piece, it feels necessary to mention that, although there is murder aplenty, this production spares the blood. Squeamish theatregoers need not be afraid! Bloody Murder is a fun night for all, filled with extra nods for those who frequent the murder mystery genre most.
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