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Theater | Stage Review

A Case of Murder Most Foul--and Funny

November 05, 1998|JANA J. MONJI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It's a dark and stormy night. Bodies are piling up in the library, and the only thing we're sure of is the butler didn't do it.

This fine-tuned revival of "Something's Afoot," a musical trifle by James McDonald, David Vos and Robert Gerlach with additional music by Ed Linderman, is both a spoof of and tribute to Agatha Christie's whodunits. Under Bonnie Hellman's direction and Julietta Marcelli's choreography, the Actors Co-Op cast at the Crossley Terrace Theatre is hilariously over the top.

In 1935, Dudley Rancour invites six people to his island estate in the English Lake District. A storm washes the bridge out, stranding a haughty butler (Bruce Ladd), a slovenly caretaker (Michael Beattie), a slutty maid (Dorothy Elias-Fahn), a fluttering Hope (Nan McNamara), a grizzled Dr. Grayburn (Jim Bullock), Rancour's sullen nephew (Thom Babbes), a pretentious socialite (Lori Berg stepping in for Elaine Welton Hill), a blustering colonel (David Schall), a no-nonsense painter (Linda Kerns) and a mysterious student (John Allsop).

New love blooms, old love is remembered, lust and greed are celebrated in melodies sung with great gusto. Hellman moves the action at a whirling pace, pausing for well-timed gestures acknowledging groan-worthy puns.

Allsop is heroically dashing in a cartoonish way. McNamara is a silly, giggly goose with unexpected moments of clarity. Kerns gives her Miss Marple-ish spinster a take-charge bluster.

Mark Henderson and Tim Farmer's Sets to Go design hides the plot contrivances for the onstage murders while capturing the feel of a stuffy manor. With music from conductor Johanna Kent on piano, Dan Belzer on keyboards and Brian Murphy on percussion, this production sparkles as a nod to the silly contrivances and wistful innocence of another era.

BE THERE

"Something's Afoot," Actors Co-Op at Crossley Terrace Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Ends Dec. 20. $22. (323) 462-8460. Running time: 2 hours.

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