WHAT's 'Murder For Two' An Extraordinary Comic Performance

By: Ellen Petry Whalen

Sam Krivda and Matthew McGloin in “Murder for Two” at WHAT. MICHAEL AND SUZ KARCHMER PHOTO

The satirical murder mystery “Murder for Two,” fittingly performed by two actors, is a feat of dancing, singing, piano playing, and comedic prowess few actors could master.

Sam Krivda and Matthew McGloin seem born for their roles in the hilarious and zany romp, so much that I was shocked to learn this is not only the first time each has been in this musical, but also the first time they worked together.

Krivda plays Marcus, the rookie cop who wants to become a detective. A splendid comedian in his own right, he especially shines as the straight man to McGloin’s endless antics.

McGloin plays about 10 suspects, all of whom are being interrogated by Marcus, after well-known mystery writer Arthur Whitney is shot during a party at his Cape Cod mansion.

Wearing oversized, round-rimmed glasses, McGloin portrays Mrs. Whitney with a wonderful Southern accent and dramatic flair. As with every suspect, it becomes clear she has a motive for the murder.

While Marcus systematically interviews each suspect, McGloin impressively transforms his costuming (designed by Jennifer Spagone), voice, posture, and gait for each new character.

One of the many eccentric suspects is the British prima ballerina Miss Lewis. For her, McGloin puts on a tutu and exaggeratedly bats his eyes at Marcus, followed by prancing about the stage and then standing with perfect poise in third position. As the romance-wary police officer, Krivda responds by comically falling under her spell.

The 90-minute show is replete with over-the-top physical comedy. In lieu of a chalk line to mark the position of his dead body, Arthur Whitney’s many novels are laid end to end on the floor. McGloin, playing the unremorseful widow Mrs. Whitney, repeatedly makes a point of cavalierly stepping on the imagined body, much to the delight of the audience.

McGloin also plays three choir boys with thick New York accents. To do this, the actor gets down on his knees and adjusts an old-fashioned newsboy cap differently for each boy’s part of the hilarious song “We’ve Seen a Lot Worse.” Through the lyrics, the boys point out that they’ve witnessed more sordid events than this murder—like one seeing his grandma naked in the shower. “So, not to worry,” they insist. At the song’s end, Marcus, ever the stickler for protocol, sternly insists they must leave if there is one more murder.

During the many crazy antics, the two actors take turns providing accompaniment on the piano, either alone or in tandem, and sometimes (just for fun) with their eyes closed. Most of the musical numbers are catchy show tunes, but some include complex elements of classical piano.

The talented acting pair are not the only ones new to this physically challenging and precision-demanding play; so is director Sam Scalamoni. He makes sure all of the witty punchlines are perfectly delivered to uproarious laughter. Gary Adler’s musical direction ups the show’s fast tempo while showcasing the actors’ fine voices.

The scenic design by Richard Chambers is stunning, with his large wooden outline of an old mansion’s rooftop looming above the stage and minimalistic pieces suggestive of a drawing room. Patricia M. Nichols’ lighting and Nathan Leigh’s sounds add another dramatic layer to the whodunit parody.

WHAT’s “Murder for Two” is an extraordinary affair not to be missed. On Friday night, the audience was so taken with the memorable performance that some people leapt to their feet clapping, even before the lights came up for bows.

Details:

“Murder for Two”

At Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, Route 6, Wellfleet

Through July 27

Information and reservations: 508-349-9428