Non-stop laughter is in store in the zany “Murder for Two” onstage at The Old Globe Theatre. It’s a fast-moving plot directed by Scott Schwartz with Officer Marcus (Ian Lowe) and a houseful of suspects (Joe Kinosian in all the roles) playing entertaining piano numbers all the while Marcus is trying to solve a murder at the birthday party of Great American Novelist Arthur Whitney — he’s the one that’s dead.
Marcus is first on the scene with hopes that none of the victims discover he’s only a wannabe detective. But police investigative protocol goes out the window when every time Marcus has a suspect to question, a different suspect emerges. Dr. Griff, the overbearing psychiatrist, keeps Marcus spinning on his feet — almost literally — as he tries to keep pace with each new suspect — who, by the way, are all different characters from Whitney’s novels, and all with a motive for offing him.
Barrette is an awkwardly poised and sinister ballerina. Then there’s Whitney’s loony wife (now widow) Dahlia. The feisty old couple, Murray and Barb, won’t give away anything they know about the murder.
Trying to keep up with who is who is not the focus of this musical; it’s more a cuckoo carnival of entertainment by Lowe and Kinosian. The vigorous piano playing — duets or solos — is terrific, and even the songs that seldom make sense are fun.
However it’s the Clue-like game that keeps this fast-track train moving. Lowe musters up every trait of a wannabe policeman anxious not to mess up this investigation, yet he can’t escape the antics that go on with the suspects. Whether enjoying them or annoyed by them, Lowe is grand in every reaction — especially when he goes off on tangents about police protocol.
Kinosian could be Gumby. He bends, he strikes ballet poses, jumps, leaps, makes weird faces, whispers, shouts and is always enticing Marcus in one direction or another.
Their musicality and timing is precise and together they pay homage to the book and Schwartz’s direction. It’s a great night of theater for fans of Agatha Christie and classic murder mysteries and fabulous farce.
IF YOU GO: “Murder for Two” runs through March 1 at The Old Globe Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park. Tickets from $29. (619) 234-5623. TheOldGlobe.org