Theatre Palisades’ “Musical Comedy Murders” Delightful Evening

The talented cast of  “Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” are here to entertain you.
Photo: RICH SCHMITT/CTN

 

By LIBBY MOTIKA

Circling the News Contributor

All the elements are present: Ten strangers invited to spend the weekend at a wealthy dowager’s country estate rumored to have secret tunnels throughout; a raging storm outside, and an air of past unsolved murders.

Yes, The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, brandishes its Agatha Christie tropes shamelessly. The Theatre Palisades production manages to transform what could have been a tired reliance on an homage to the zany movies of the 1930s and ‘40s with their guffaw gags and golly-gee exclamations, Jeepers and Swell, into gleeful entertainment.

Director Lee Costello has a cast that is up to the task. The plot is chaotic. The characters have been invited to audition a play for the granddame in hopes that she’ll underwrite the production on Broadway.

But playwright John Bishop can’t help himself from inserting endless movie glory-days references and yesteryear gags, that upend the plot. Audience members mustn’t try to follow the proceedings, however, because like all Christie mysteries, it all comes clear by the end.

In the meantime, as the action proceeds, the characters reveal their true identities, maids and actors are murdered, there are blackouts, foreign accents, period accents, stock stereotypes, bodies in the closet, all overseen by a delightful Elsa Von Grossenknueten (Michele Schultz). The dowager, who delights in minor sleuthing, mines comedy gold, especially in one scene.

In attempting to give a speech, that she has clearly forgotten, she hilariously misreads the pantomime signals from the undercover cop Michael Kelly (Brendan Serapiglia).

Hats off for the marvelous set (Sherman Wayne) and the period feel of the costumes (Destin Bass and Hahnah Jackson).

All this together makes “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” a delightful escape.

The play continues through June 30 at Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road. Contact: theatrepalisades.org or (310) 454-1970.

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