John Campbell Finnegan, Jill Nissen, Chris McConnell, Megg Ward, Beth Olliges, & Francis Whitaker backstage.
By A.S. Waterman
Directed by John Campbell Finnegan
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2019 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
“Things are not what they seem” is a common enough maxim when it comes to mysteries; a foregone conclusion, but we do like to have the trappings pointed out to us in this particular genre, don’t we? The mechanics of plot and the work of the detective are part of the illusion that we may be as smart as whatever supersleuth we are following.
Deception:Beta does a good enough job of avoiding those comforting cliches that describing the story beyond the introductory scene seems a questionable idea. Even during the lengthy introduction by Francis Whitaker as Bailey, we suspect that assumptions are folly. This mystery is a different sort of animal than the usual formula, and author A.S. Waterman, in a new, world premiere script, seems loath to make it easy this time.
Bailey is an outlandish character, brash, loud, and a perfect fit for Whitaker, who relishes every moment. He is but one member of some sort of mysterious research team locked in an underground facility. It is as if “The Andromeda Strain” were written as a mystery instead of science fiction, except…
Okay, that’s as far as I go. This is one of the more unorthodox entries in the WhoDunnit canon, and also one of the better acted. Mr. Whitaker is always a lively presence onstage, and he pushes the rapport of the table walks more than most. Bailey always has his eye on his next meal, and Whitaker snuck bread and wrapped pats of butter into his fanny pack (he wears two!) as he sparred with audience members. Whitaker takes chances in these moments, but they pay off.
John Campbell Finnegan is Fisher, a savant who is the creative genius from which the project springs. Enacted with full-on Rainman physicality, it raises suspicion. Exactly what tasks fall to the remaining project members is difficult to suss out. Place (Jill Nissen) has the executive bearing of someone in charge, as does Diman (Megg Ward), although her personality seems fluid. Sturman (Beth Olliges) boasts a thick Bronx accent, while Nichols (Chris McConnell) is a snooty Brit. But what is their purpose here?
Before the end of the first scene, you will begin to know the truth of things, but will you understand everything by the time the murder is solved? Waterman is playing with a theme I have always found compelling, with depth beyond the typical examination of aberrant behavior that is a murder mystery.
As a bonus, those of us above a certain age can occupy ourselves with trying to identify the various themes from classic TV mystery and police procedurals contained in the pre-show soundtrack. Adam 12, Law & Order, McCloud, Murder, She Wrote and, if I’m not mistaken, I believe I heard the NBC Mystery Movie theme?
For dinner, I had the Old Forester Braised Pork with collard greens and smoked grits and it was delicious.
February 16 – March 30, 2019
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 Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.
2019 Arts-Louisville/Broadway World Theatre Award Sponsorship provided by