Just a mile or so north of the Weston Playhouse on Route 100 is the Weston Rod and Gun Club, housing Weston Playhouse Theatre Company's "other" stage. Audience members are never far removed from performers who can see every twitch, grin and grimace, and vice versa. The intimate setting was perfect for "Murder for Two," ninety minutes of murder, mayhem and musical comedy that left last Friday's opening night audience exhausted from the laugh-filled thrill ride.
A lá Agatha Christie, a surprise birthday party begins and ends abruptly with the shooting death of the guest of honor. Called to the scene, Morris Moscowicz and his partner, Lou, are to hold the fort until the arrival of the detective in charge. Ian Lowe played the ambitious Morris, who, eager to impress, bulls ahead and attempts to solve the crime on his own. Kyle Branzel portrayed the many guests at the party, each of whom is a suspect.
That's the set-up, which does not begin to describe the antics on stage. Lowe and Branzel sing, dance, and accompany each other on piano or play simultaneously without letup. A delightfully low-tech decision by Producing Artistic Director Steve Stettler eschewed the grand piano prominently featured in previous productions elsewhere in favor of an upright piano that revolved on a platform to allow everyone in on the fun the actors clearly were having.
Lowe was a riot as Morris, a wannabe sleuth who coupled blind ambition with ineptitude and officious adherence to protocol. Bud Abbott to Branzel's Lou Costello, even Lowe could not always maintain a straight face once Branzel went off — which was often. Branzel contorted, pranced and posed as he switched back and forth within seconds from celebrity diva to unethical psychologist to bickering married couple to fawning intern. The wonder is that each characterization was so complete that the audience never got mixed up as to who was who.
Both Lowe and Branzel are fresh off a national tour of "Murder for Two," and complemented each other with precision in a show that throws in the kitchen sink in pursuit of entertainment. Their good nature extended to audience members, one quite young, enlisted to join the proceedings onstage.
Scenic Designer Brian Dudkiewicz's theatre setting, complete with footlights, meant that nobody would take anything too seriously. Choreographer/Associate Director Wendy Seyb must have been busy — the Irish jig by Branzel was inspired.
Dead bodies and lots of singing and dancing — what's not to like? Performances of "Murder for Two" continue at the Weston Rod and Gun Club through Sunday, Sept. 4. For tickets, call the box office at (802) 824-5288 or go on-line at westonplayhouse.org.