The Unusual Suspects
nytheatre.com review by Akia Squitieri
August 11, 2007
The Unusual Suspects is a clever romp poking fun at the "usual" cat & mouse murder mysteries. The show opens with a party that is quickly interrupted with the declaration to freeze, this is a crime scene! From there both jumbled nonsense and hilarity ensue.
We quickly learn that this is no normal party, but a reunion of crazy people who were all at the same asylum: distracted and neurotic party hostess Rita Upperglade; Queen Hopsabucket, an insane drag queen; love-struck blind man Raymond Spoon; the cute and innocent amnesiac Kitty Rittispittiliogs; the charming and seemingly sane Glen Blandburr; our murder victim, Rachel Ward; and the bumbling piano player Ian Callipydge. And of course the hapless and helpless Sarg and his rookie side kick Evan who are bound and determined to solve Rachel's murder but are thwarted at every turn as each guest's story become more and more ridiculous as the story unravels.
With flashbacks, duels, pastries and songs, there are times when the audience is not exactly sure what is happening before them. There are surely funny moments, but also some where the audience is left to scratch its head in confusion.
A standout moments of the play is the hilarious (and I mean HILLARIOUS) duel between Glen Blandburr and Queen Hopsabucket, which is not only fun to watch but includes some very skillful choreography and stage combat. There is also a clever intermission transition which is worth skipping that cigarette or bathroom break for.
It took a little while for the play to gather steam, and I was actually surprised when the cast finally burst into song, as the play does not start out feeling like a musical (which is not a bad thing). Several of the musical numbers, like "Let's Do it for Evan," "Everything is Wonderful," and "Evan's Solo" really let the excellent voices of the cast and the smart writing shine, and make up for some of the more ridiculous and less developed numbers like "How I Saved the Monkeys."
Emily Shoolin's polite Rita is skillfully funny and reminiscent of Gilda Radner's SNL days. Angela Sytko's amnesiac Kitty brings plenty of cute one-liners and fun patter, but it is her clear, crisp, lovely voice that makes her a standout in the musical numbers. Murder victim Rachel Ward is played by Bryn Boice, who shows some fun range with each of the nonsensical dialogue and character changes required for this role. Nicolas Moran brings a lovely combination of deadpan comedy and straight man finesse to the role of Sarg. Another standout of the evening is Bryan Fenkart as habitual liar Glen, showing leading-man charisma and remarkable presence. The ridiculous (and fabulous) Queen Hopsabucket is played to the fullest with charm and whimsy by scene-stealer Michael Poignand. Eddie Varley plays the quiet Raymond with subtlety and intelligence. Amanda Hunt plays Evan with conviction and smarts complimented by a lovely singing voice. Rounding out the group is Derek Sonderfan as Ian; Sonderfan excels both as pianist and as lunatic, providing plenty of silly laughs and sight gags along the way.
Gregory Cicchino's direction keeps the show going, steering the superb cast into many funny moments throughout. All in all The Unusual Suspects is bright light fare that is perfect for summer, but doesn't provide anything too unusual to keep you talking afterwards.