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Friday, April 18, 2014
On and Off Broadway
Two Murder Musicals: A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder / Murder For Two
Reviews by Elyse Trevers

It's hard enough playing one role in a play, but this season, two expert actors are entertaining audiences by portraying eight or more characters. In both “A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder” and “Murder for Two,” the actors are not playing multiple parts to save money, but rather to create humor. And they do with resounding success.

In the new musical A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, the superb Jefferson Mays (I Am My Own Wife,) who has proven himself equally skilled in both comedies and dramas, plays all eight members of the imperious D'Ysquith family. Each is stereotypical of a self-important highborn person with idiosyncrasies that sometimes lead to death. Mays can convey different characters with voices, posture and attitude. We love to hate him!

The musical begins with the death of Monty Navarro’s mother, when Monty learns that he is eighth in line to the title of the wealthy D'Ysquith family. Her family disowned his mother when she fell in love with a Castilian, and she was forced to raise her son in poverty. Now, with no prospects or money, Monty seeks revenge and, along the way, the family title. Cleverly, Monty eliminates the relatives standing in his way. Even when he doesn't kill them (through bee stings, a hole in the ice, a fall from a church steeple) the others die, one mysteriously and the other of natural causes. Ironically, Monty is arrested for the one murder he didn't commit. Now he must try to prove his innocence while caught between his two loves: the vain, beautiful Sibella (Lisa O’Hare) and a distant cousin, Phoebe (Lauren Worsham). One of the most entertaining songs, “I’ve Decided To Marry You,” has Monty caught (literally) trying to keep his two loves from finding out about each other.

Revenge and murder are hardly a subject for humor. In the hands of Stephen Sondheim, multiple vengeful murders become dark (Sweeney Todd). With the silly playful music and lyrics of Steven Lutvak and a book by Robert L. Freedman and the extraordinary talents of Mays, the audience enjoys watching each pompous character meet his death.

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