Ryan Beyer as Dr. Angus MacCrimmon. Photo: WhoDunnit
The Corpse on Farewell Street
Written by A.S.Waterman
Directed by John Campbell Finnegan
A review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2021 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Any mystery writer worth their salt creates a signature detective; some have two! Perhaps the greatest mystery writer of all time, Agatha Christie, boasted a pair of the most memorable, Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple. A.S. Waterman’s model for Dr.Angus MacCrimmon is undoubtedly Sherlock Holmes, as the Scottish physician is a man of science possessed of similar powers of observation.
That comparison seems especially notable in his first appearance in the WhoDunnit repertoire, here given a revival in a virtual production. Later plays reveal more of the character’s personal history, but The Corpse on Farewell Street presents him as a consulting investigator in New England called into service by one Filbert J. Carothers (Marc McHone sporting a grand beard and smartly fashioned mustache) to determine whether he has committed a murder.
It’s an intriguing start, and, unusually for a WhoDunnit show, is an extended exchange between only two characters. Next, we meet the other members of a secret society who counted Carothers and the victim among their numbers. The haughty John Lowell (John Trueblood), curmudgeonly Oliver Stevens (Ryk McIntyre), boisterous Kieran O’Brien (John Campbell Finnigan), ravishing Sonia Alves (Jaren Childress), and the comparatively proper Emily Fein (Erica Carlson) comprise the suspects. They call themselves “The 190”, a title whose meaning has been lost over the generations of the group’s existence. They come off like a less respectable version of MENSA and revel in their arcane history and cryptic codes.
Ryan Beyer is new to the role of MacCrimmon, a more robust physical embodiment of the detective than the more ascetic and quirky takes from the past. Although not called upon to do so here. this McCrimmon looks like he could throw and take a punch. Mr. Finnigan (doubling as director) makes O’Brien colorful enough to seem more barroom brawler than intellectual, Mr. McIntyre is persuasively misanthropic as Stevens, and Mr. Trueblood brings his trademark addlepated charm as misdirection for Lowell. Ms. Childress is a vivid, red-clad figure of passion in contrast to the stricter, German Fein, who Erica Carlson plays with great precision.
The use of the video conference format has improved since the last WhoDunnit production, with a more assured use of backgrounds, music, and costumes. It would be good if the lighting variances between the actor’s individual screens could be more consistent; McCrimmon and Stevens coming the closest to matching the texture of the backgrounds, and eyelines on the move betrayed the reading of lines.
But, of course, this is material intended for the immediacy of the live room, hot food, and cold libations. The WhoDUnnit Murder Mystery Theatre is an especially social experience, and however much effort is behind it, the computer screen is no substitute. Yet each visit to such a production can still be a pilgrimage to the sanctuary of theatre.
The Corpse on Farewell Street
February 4-21 Online
Admission begins at 6:45 pm/Show begins at 7:00 pm
Call Heather Hensley at (517) 304-3081 for tickets and more information
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.