Francis Whitaker, Kenn Park, Craig Nolan Highley, & Jordan Buster in A Murder Out of Time. Photo courtesy WhoDunnit.
A Murder Out of Time
By A.S. Waterman
Directed by Ben Rogers & John Finnegan
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2018 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved
A Murder Out of Time frames a traditional mystery within a speculative fiction bookend of two time traveling, dimension-hopping beings interacting with the victim. Another entry in A.S. Waterman’s The Listener series, in which cosmic entity Misty (Blake Wilkerson) calls on her friend The Listener (Ben Rogers) to solve a mystery in which a mere mortal has carried out a nefarious scheme to take someone else’s life.
Dr. Elizabeth Zyden (Megg Ward) is a cutting-edge scientist who has developed a controversial theory. As the show opens, she is recently deceased from an apparent heart attack that is exposed as a murder by The Listener. The suspects are a group that were attending a science conference at a hotel in Geneva, Switzerland, and include Dr. Zyden’s boyfriend, Trey Francis (Kenn Park), Wendell Johnston (Francis Whitaker) an anti-science crusader who has made a lucrative career touring in opposition to Dr. Zyden, but who is a complete charlatan, Amy Devereaux (Jordan Buster), Dr. Zyden’s assistant, and Jordan Ostrov (Craig Nolan Highley), the slightly pompous Hotel Manager.
The murder mystery-with-dinner format carries an inherent risk for stilted dramatic stasis, but one of the antidotes is to overplay it to varying degrees. Francis Whitaker as the southern-fried fraud Wendell Johnston is a hoot, and as is always the case when Mr. Whitaker works with this company, he excels in the table walk periods, in which the cast interacts with the audience in character. There was one moment in which he seemed to carry on such an interaction during a scene, and, however much it entertained that side of the room, it couldn’t help but seem like a moment of deliberate upstaging that distracted from the narrative.
Ben Rogers may not earn nearly the laughs as Whitaker – The Listener is, seemingly by design, a limited, enigmatic character, but his effete, pretentious, snobbery gives the underwritten character distinction.
Megg Ward lends Dr. Zyden surprising gravitas, a more interesting achievement because she was a last-minute substitute. Whodunnit shows always have alternates and are often double cast, so Ms. Ward had undoubtedly worked on the role to some extent before she was called upon, but her bio boasts the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom, and training in physical storytelling with the Accademia dell’Arte in Italy, so her estimable training deserves some credit.
The remaining cast acquits themselves admirably, and the set and costumes are effective, but once again playwright Waterman spins her entertainment around an interesting idea, in this case, an examination of the merging of science and the metaphysical. It also allows allusions to Dr. Who…could The Listener be a Time Lord? There is no reason why not.
WhoDunnit continues to expand the range of the menu options, and my experience included a savory chorizo fettuccini.
A Murder Out of Time
February 17 – April 14, 2018
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, where he is Managing Editor of their Artebella blog, and host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX-FM 97.1/ ARTxFM.com. But he spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.