Fallon Crowley, Billy Smith, Abby Lyman, Katherine Summerfield, Tracy W. Marx, John Trueblood, Ann S. Waterman, Marc McHone. Photo: WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theater
My Old Kentucky Murder Mystery
Directed by Niles T. Welch
A review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2020 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Upon my second encounter with this script, I am reminded that more than any other A.S.Waterman script, has something on its mind more important than the puzzle of solving a murder, something that, several years after its original production, only speaks more powerfully to our moment.
The plot is mostly a memory, one recalled from the childhood of Frank Cousins in 1950s Old Louisville, and for a time the production invites us to revel in the warm glow of nostalgia for the last gasp of conservative inequality before the social upheaval of the 1960s.
There is an unsolved disappearance from that time, but the mystery here is more quixotic than the usual whodunit. Perhaps the better question is what is really going on here? Uncovering the truth illuminates why Frank is so damaged in 2006, not merely eccentric but forever shaped by abuse and neglect from indifferent, alcoholic parents in the Eisenhower years.
Of course, whatever enlightenment society discovered in the aftermath of dramatic social change hasn’t solved the problems as much as given them more exposure, so that we cannot help but make these assumptions about Frank’s twitterpated personality.
Not that the audience’s experience need be so burdened, but if between the main course and dessert you come to realize that there is value beyond the surface pleasures of the play, more subtext than you would have expected to find in a dinner theatre entertainment, it proves there is more here than meets the eye.
The limited scenery allowed in the space means recreating the mid-20th century period falls to costumes, effective without being kitschy, and performance. The script gives it a foundation, but the cast did some of their best evocation of the time in the table walks between scenes. A blasé attitude towards sexism, alcohol, and parenting colored all of these interactions, although one character’s reference to the Woodford Reserve in their glass was a slip since that brand of bourbon wouldn’t exist for another 50 years.
But other details, such as the Dragnet theme used as the ringtone for Sgt. Joe Kelly, reinforce the lightly satirical tone and keep the material light and easily engaging.
John Trueblood is an ideal choice for Frank, for he seems to find a man who might be hearing voices with ease and good humor, and Marc McHone is an effortless yet authoritative presence as Sgt. Kelly. Ann Waterman takes care finding the balance of funny and sad in the older Dottie, one of the two family members who were ever kind to Frank.
The other roles all exist in the past and are rendered with some remove. Fallon Crowley and Christina Kelty (alternate this night for Katherine Summerfield) were tidy encapsulations of the bitterness and naiveté found in American women not yet attuned to feminism, and Billy Smith and Tracy W. Marx were bastions of whiskey-soaked patriarchy. Abby Lyman was a fine Young Dottie, although it is the role that offers the least complexity.
My Old Kentucky Murder Mystery
Saturday evenings, February 15 – March 28, 2020
Seating at 6:30 / Show starts at 7:00
WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theater
At The Downtown Bristol
614 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.
2020 Arts-Louisville/Broadway World Theatre Award Sponsorship provided by