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Murder for Two -A Killer Musical

murder for two by kinosian & blair

Book and music by Joe Kinosian

Book and lyrics by Kellen Blair

Directed by David H. Bell

Recipe for madcap romp: Agatha Christie + Victor Borge + Marx Brothers

It is easy to apply the adjectives brilliant, creative, and imaginative to Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s premiere of Murder for Two– A Killer Musical. The actors couldn’t be more engaged or engaging, the idea is clever. The evening is certainly an exuberant romp. And yet — there is a lack.

murder for two by kinosian & blair

On the positive side: what could be more innovative than one character playing a police officer (longing for promotion to detective) while the other takes on the persona of 13 possible murder suspects of varied ages and sexes? These include the aging wife of the slain man;  their amateur-sleuth  niece who is studying criminology; a sexy ballerina; an unhappy, argumentative couple; a bitter psychiatrist, and three young boys, part of a choir hired to entertain for the victim’s surprise birthday party.

murder for two by kinosian & blair

How can co-author Joe Kinosian portray this varied lot? The answer is, with ease and grace, a multitude of facial and body expressions and perfect timing.

murder for two by kinosian & blair

Comedy is rife as he and Alan Schmuckler, (as investigating Officer Marcus Moscowicz) thrust and parry their way to a solution of the crime. And to add to all this, both men are excellent pianists, exchanging and interweaving their musical skill as they swiftly replace each other at the keyboard to  underline narrative and interlace songs and  dialogue. David H. Bell is skillfully directing a marriage between Victor Borge and Agatha Christie with a mixture of the Marx Brothers thrown in.

murder for two by kinosian & blair

So what are the negatives? So very much is going on – at madcap pace. Too much? How much absurdity can by woven into the plot without destroying it? The mystery itself, the core of the play, gets lost in all the shtick. Yes, it is fun to see a member of the audience brought onto stage for a slight scene, yet it distracts from the unity of the production.  This is just one of many possible examples of the story going off on amusing but extraneous tangents. While it may be a plus to say the story never takes itself too seriously, perhaps it should.

However, I suspect this is a minority opinion, as the delighted audience rose to its feet for a standing ovation at play’s end.

Certainly recommended (just short of highly)

Beverly Friend

[email protected]

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout the Murder for Two page on

Upstairs at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier,, tickets  $25-$35, Wednesdays through Saturdays 7:30 pm, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays 3 pm, running time is 90 minutes, through June 19, 2011. Forty percent parking discount at Navy Pier garages.


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