Murder Mystery

James Taylor Odom (left) and Brian Walters play an outlandish cast of 13 characters in the hilarious, frenzied musical mystery “Murder for Two,” streaming through April 25 from TheatreSquared.

There’s been a murder in some non-descript New England town, and everyone’s a suspect.

From the moment the curtain rises, Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair’s “Murder for Two” is rife with suspense, as ambitious young police officer Marcus Moscowicz arrives at the scene of the murder of a famous local author. But this play has a twist, and not just the obligatory plot curveball of any good murder mystery: the play’s thirteen characters are portrayed by just two actors singing, dancing and piano playing their way through the riotous, absurd tale.

TheatreSquared’s remote production of “Murder for Two” is brilliantly performed by Brian Walters and James Taylor Odom, who previously acted in the company’s 2016 in-person run of the musical comedy.

The actors’ experience and comfort with these roles is obvious in their sharp, perfectly timed delivery of hilarious one-liners and their easy incorporation of the signature, delightfully exaggerated physical comedy that makes the show so memorable. Their spirited performances of such ridiculously funny songs as “I Need a Partner” and “Steppin’ Out of the Shadows” were also flawless.

Odom’s star power in “Murder for Two” is particularly pronounced. Odom, who plays all the characters except Officer Moscowicz, hastily but seamlessly transitions many, many times between the twelve individuals, each with their own unique mannerisms and voices. It is genuinely impressive that he does not miss a beat.

His interpretation of each character is so uniquely and brilliantly funny that I found myself looking forward to each one showing up again as the play progressed. My favorite was Barrette Lewis, the overly seductive, hilariously self incriminating ballerina who never simply moves across the stage, but instead launches herself from place to place with ridiculous, exaggerated dance moves. It would be difficult for even the most dour viewer not to laugh out loud each time Odom dramatically flails his arms or sashays around the home library in which the play is set.

While Walters' sole character, Officer Moscovicz is far less eccentric than the bizarre band of suspects who gathered at the murder victim’s home for a surprise party, his performance is still memorable. His piano and vocal skills are excellent, making the captivating musical numbers among the best things about “Murder for Two.” His even keeled performance as the determined young officer provides the perfect foil to the shenanigans of Odom’s outlandish, over-the-top suspects.

However, the actors’ performances would not have been as compelling without the production’s great costume and prop design. Although Walters and Odom each wear a single, simple costume throughout the entirety of the 90-minute play, several of the murder suspects have unique accessories they wear or carry to help indicate which character Odom is portraying. While small and unassuming, like a headband, the costume pieces add to the hilarity of Odom’s character switches.

The best accessory by far is the half men’s bowler, half flower-adorned women’s hat worn by married couple Murray and Barb Flandon. The simple but creative design and Odom’s impeccable comedic instincts work perfectly together in scenes where he switches the hat around every few seconds as the husband and wife bicker.

An honorable mention goes to the tiny children’s shoes attached to small planks that Odom kneels on when playing Timmy, Yonkers and Skid, the strangely worldly 10-year-old members of an old-fashioned children’s choir. It’s impossible to keep one’s composure during the boys’ madcap musical number “A Lot Woise.”

Theatresquared’s last fully remote production of the season is certainly one for the books. As the company prepares to invite viewers back into the theater for its first hybrid production next month, audiences won’t regret settling into their couch with their loved ones to take in the zany absurdity and musical hilarity that is “Murder for Two.”

TheatreSquared’s recorded performance of “Murder for Two” streams digitally through April 25. Twenty-four-hour streaming access starts at $25.

Sarah Komar is the news editor for The Arkansas Traveler, where she previously worked as a staff reporter in 2019 and early 2020.

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