Craig Nolan Highley; Jason Ferrett; Alex Haydon; Beth Olliges; John Lina; Faith Matthews Muller; Dan Remaks in Murder Behind The Curtain. Photo: WhoDunnit
Murder Behind The Curtain
Written by A.S. Waterman
Directed by Rita Hight
A review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2022 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
The pandemic brought art to a halt for a time, but this period has also been characterized by leadership changes at several companies. WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theater pivoted valiantly to online productions, but the company depends upon audience participation for its full measure, not to mention dinner, so some essential parts of the equation were just missing. Finally, they are back “home” in the downtown location of the Bristol Bar & Grille and under the stewardship of Joe Monroe and the company’s founders, A.S. Waterman and Niles Welch.
The return is with one of the more lighthearted of the A.S. Waterman scripts. Although WhoDunnit shows always contain humor, Murder Behind The Curtain is cheekier and more self-referential than most.
A low-budget zombie slasher film is struggling to begin shooting on a soundstage, and director Del Weiner (Alex Haydon) is anxiously awaiting some potential investors to visit the set. His screwy cast, the overly dramatic Gloria Starr (Beth Olliges), aging has-been Todd Roddick (John Lina), and the “bubble-headed blonde” Candie Ashe (Faith Matthews Muller) are in various stages of ego-centric. EQ (Dan Remaks) is his inept sound technician and Terry Fargo (Craig Nolan Highley) is the facility’s Head of Security.
The producer is never seen. For the simple reason that he is found murdered. As usual, detailing the plot beyond that does a disservice to future audiences, but Waterman nicely uses turnabout and illogic decisions as diversions and the script is highly satirical about actors’ egos although not, curiously, those behind the camera.
The script does not contain the intriguing subtext that is characteristic of Waterman’s best work, and a couple of songs blur the line between comedy and musical theatre and seemed a tad too tentative in their performance, but the jokes land and, on second thought, there is an intriguing contrast of surveillance society and the ease of plain-sense subterfuge of identity theft.
Alex Haydon perfectly captures the anxious energy of a director not sure if his film has a future or not, and John Lina underplays the washed-up soap star hoping nobody will notice. On opening night, Faith Matthews Muller seemed a little shaky at first, but quickly found her footing as a dim bulb whose IQ seems to climb as the story unfolds, and Beth Olliges is appropriately arch and self-conscious as a diva stuck in a grandiloquent manner. Dan Remaks is a good sport but EQ is an underdeveloped character with little opportunity to make a mark and Craig Nolan Highley gauges the balance of bewilderment and opaque identity of his character.
As usual, I didn’t guess the killer, but I’ve come to realize that, personally, I don’t enjoy working out the puzzle of “whodunnit” but rather enjoy the surprise of the reveal, and I almost prefer to eavesdrop on the table walks among the other guests – they inevitably ask better questions than I do – but however you engage, the easy entertainment value of WhoDunnit remains intact.
Featuring Alex Haydon, Craig Nolan Highley, John Lina, Faith Matthews Muller, Beth Olliges, Dan Remaks
Murder Behind The Curtain
September 17, 24, October 1, 15, 22, 29, and November 5 @ 7:00 PM.
PLUS a special show on October 6 at The Pepin Mansion in New Albany.
WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theater
Bristol Bar & Grille Downtown
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.