The cast of "Murderers" (clockwise from right) Desmond Reifsnyder, Ann Nevill and Emmeline Chuy. PHOTO COURTESY OF ACADIA REP

Murder most funny: Acadia Rep opens with dark comedy



MOUNT DESERT — What a pleasure to settle into the seats in the intimate air-conditioned Acadia Repertory Theatre in Somesville to enjoy another season opener after a two-year pandemic break. 

And what fun to see the three actors in that opener – Jeffery Hatcher’s “Murderers”– pull out all the stops as they weave their tales of revenge, avarice and homicide at Riddle Key, a posh Florida retirement community. 

Up first is the excellent Desmond Reifsnyder as Gerald, a young man who hatches a plot with his girlfriend and her ailing mother to avoid paying inheritance taxes on her estate when the expected death occurs. 

Actually, Reifsnyder, a relatively recent MDI High School grad, with his long, wavey, blond locks, looks a bit too boyish for the role of Gerald Halverson, when a more groomed and dapper Neil Patrick Harris-look might have served better. But never mind, Reifsnyder is a marvel as he untangles the twisted tale of marrying his dying future mother-in-law – seamlessly supplying the voices and demeanors of the half dozen or so other characters in the narrative. But there is a fly in this sticky ointment. Well, four flies, really. After a few weeks living in an old folk’s community, Gerald discovers that he rather enjoys the relatively sedentary routine – the short rounds of golf, afternoon naps, early dinners and such. And, what’s, more, (fly number one) he finds himself falling for the old gal, throwing a jealous tantrum when she attends a dance with a gent her own age.  

This unexpected development poses a complication when his wife’s diagnosis (fly number two) changes for the better. 

Enter fly number three – a gigolo blackmailer and number four – an old coot who, like the murderous aunties in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” decides it’s his mission to relieve the world of suffering.  

As I write this, I am picturing these distinct characters: the attractive silver-haired cougar who Gerald marries; the spray-tanned, toupeed gigolo; the paunchy old coot with blinding white dentures… but, in actual fact, Reifsnyder effectively creates them all, as well as a variety of props, with his voice and body language, deftly lighting our way down the dark path to murder.  

Next up is retiree Lucy Stickler, who has just learned that her nemesis Margaret, has moved into Riddle Key and is rekindling an old affair with her husband. As Lucy, the cheery but inwardly furious Midwesterner, Acadia Rep veteran Ann Nevill is the real pro here, making us feel we know her nuanced character intimately, until she surprises and horrifies us with her ingenious and terrible plan for revenge.  

And finally, we have Minka, a Riddle Key customer service rep who takes her job looking after the welfare of the residents a tad too seriously. Emmeline Chuy does a terrific job making us side with pretty, murderous Minka as she cuts a Grim Reaper swathe through the community, cutting down the meanspirited, cruel and selfish folks who cross her avenging angel flight path. 

The three actors and director Michael Kissin do a fine job of making these monologues lively and fun, giving us the illusion of an ensemble rather than three solo performances. Andrew Meyer deserves a standing “O” for his sound design which was, at Wednesday’s performance, flawless, and the costumes by Jaylene Roths and Rawl Becket also help define the three principle characters. 

Still, as entertaining as this play is, after two years of attending Zoom events, the monologue format did not quite satisfy my craving for live theater in which the characters really do interact with one another. We will have to wait until the Rep’s upcoming production of “The Importance of Being Earnest” for that great theatrical delight. 

 “Murderers” runs through July 24, Tuesday through Saturday at 8:15 p.m. with 2 p.m. matinees on Sundays. Call (207) 244-7260 or go to www.acadiarep.com for reservations. Masks are required. 

 

Nan Lincoln

Nan Lincoln

The former arts editor at the Bar Harbor Times writes reviews and feature stories for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander.
Nan Lincoln

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