The Double Murder Plays
nytheatre.com review by Lisa Ferber
August 16, 2007
I wanted to like this one. The press release describes The Double Murder Plays as: "A fresh look at the Battle of the Sexes. Provocative one-acts featuring a man and woman in myriad forms of love—and crimes of passion. Chaos, exaltation, heartbreak, attack and devotion; it's a lusty evening." It is billed as a comedy/drama.
There is not that much lust. It's got barely any comedy. And while there are plenty of good things about this 90-minute, well-acted collection of short plays, I found myself oftentimes wondering, huh?
There are six plays here. Homeless is a confusing bit where a woman's husband comes home from his day and the woman doesn't recognize him because now he is a homeless person. The scene begins with the woman screaming as though he is a stranger and asks who he is, which seems unlikely if he is still recognizable as her husband. He then spouts a lot of weird stuff about "talent is confidence." I never knew exactly what the deal was with this piece, though it contains this smart line:"Does God fire you? I wish he would. Then it would be out of your hands."
In Scrapbook, a woman repeatedly asks her husband, "You know what we don't do anymore?" and they proceed to engage in singing to each other, hair-brushing, implied sexual activity, and conversations that seem unlikely to inspire romance. What works in this scene is the wife's growing desperation toward the end. I really liked the idea here, but it might have been nice to see more of a romantic rekindling, instead of weird reminiscences about past lovers.
In Ritalin, a couple argues over whether their son should be put on Ritalin. In Socks, an absurdist rambling, the two actors play a couple of socks—it doesn't really go anywhere. In Annunciation, a high-strung woman is chatting on the phone, talking about an upcoming baby, and receives a visit from a modern angel. This play featured what felt like some awkward attempts at philosophy; I wondered what the playwright was trying to communicate. And yet the premise of each of these held promise. My favorite overall was Double Murder. In this, we see a couple sneak poison into each other's drinks and then watch them enjoy casual evening conversation. This is smart, well-structured, and it works.
The Double Murder Plays is co-produced by Theater by the Blind. For what it's worth, any level of visual impairment in the actors is not in the least bit evident. Harriett Trangucci and Scott Klavan do very good work. Klavan in particular is a wonderful actor. He seems tremendously comfortable at all times, thoroughly believable and physically present.
Klavan has smart ideas. If he and director Stephen Jobes would make more effort to clarify to the audience what is taking place and where each scene is going, we could have a more effective show.