FISH CREEK, Wis. (WFRV) – A two-person, comical whodunit musical. Now, there’s a rarity.
“Murder for Two” is playing at Peninsula Players Theatre.
The production stars a couple of ringers who previously performed their singing/acting/piano-playing roles at other professional theaters. The female adds a bit of ballet.
The creation of authors Kellen Blair and Joe Kinosian is a gimmick stuffed with rapid-fire banter, instant character changes, imagined characters and quick musical moves around this story:
A wife throws a birthday surprise party for her author-husband in the couple’s mansion. Invited are people whose secrets have been exposed in the husband’s popular series of books. The surprise: Upon arrival, the (imagined) husband is shot dead, square through the forehead. It just so happens two policemen are at hand, one of whom is mistaken to be a detective… which he then pretends to be, with serious attention to protocol detail.
Soon, an aura is created: This is Agatha Christy meets Dueling Pianos meets improv comedy energy style after chugging a mug of espresso.
Kirsten Salpini and David Corlew are performance whizzes. Theirs is a superior style of teaming, bolstered by collaborations led by director Melanie Keller and scenic designer Jeffery D. Kmiec.
Personal note: Driving to the theater, a thought visited about a favorite fall production of the Players: “The Mystery of Irma Vep,” performed last century by Greg Vinkler and Tom Mula. It featured two whiz-bang actors as all characters, though without music. I was hoping to see something memory-worthy like that. And so this production of “Murder for Two” is. Included in the set is an inside story. On the mantel – in the upper right corner in the photo above – is a portrait of this story’s author. The image is that of Greg Vinkler, the beloved former artistic director of the Players for 34 years. It’s as though Greg Vinkler is watching over this bit of wonderfully bonkers entertainment.
The Kirsten Salpini-David Corlew interplay is tight.
Their lines and piano playing teem with complexities – often both at the same time.
David Corlew’s detective sometimes speaks with imaginary characters, such as his colleague, Lou. What Lou says is imagined by what the detective says in response – with the audience having to fill in the blanks.
Kirsten Salpini is:
+ The wife, a Southern belle with a bad hip.
+ A niece, working on a degree in criminology, who is eager to help the detective.
+ A sultry-voiced ballet dancer, of whom the detective is enamored.
+ A bickering New York-ese husband and wife, Murray and Barb.
+ A gruff fireman whose flame in his brain is going out.
+ A psychiatrist with a German accent and a whole lot of doctor-patient secrets.
+ Three smarty-pants kids from a choir who are part of the party’s entertainment. Kirsten Salpini becomes a different kid among Timmy, Yonkers and Skid by a turn of a cap she wears.
In her tour de farce, Kirsten Salpini is especially do-all as the ballet dancer, Barrette Lewis, in her “confession.” The display starts at the piano with Barrette brashly telling of an indiscretion and telling the detective if that led her to murder, so what? Soon, Barrette is up, sweeping around the stage, singing and flowing in dance that ends up on the top of the piano.
Later, Kirsten Salpini goes Vegas in a climactic whoop-dee-do.
And so Peninsula Players Theatre is ending its 87th season with a bang.
Tuesday’s near-full house gave a standing ovation.
This has been a season often of small-cast verbal artistry with one after another impressive set with visual artistry. COVID-19 is not yet a thing of the past, but managing director Brian Kelsey and artistic director Linda Fortunato found ways to lead the Players toward normal.
Running time: One hour, 39 minutes (no intermission)
Remaining performances: To Oct. 16: 7 p.m. Tuesdays to Sundays, except for 2 p.m. Sundays, Sept. 18, 25 and Oct. 16
Creative: Book and lyrics – Kellen Blair; book and music – Joe Kinosian; director – Melanie Keller; musical director – Malcolm Ruhl; costume designer – Uriel Gomez; lighting designer – Stephen Roy White; scenic designer – Jeffrey D. Kmiec; sound designer – Joseph Palermo; assistant scenic designer – Milo Blue; scenic artist – Alex Polzin; stage manager – Alden Vasquez; production manager – Paul Cook; managing director – Brian Kelsey; artistic director – Linda Fortunato
Marcus Moscowicz – David Corlew
The Suspects – Kirsten Salpini
“Waiting in the Dark”
“A Perfectly Lovely Surprise”
Murray & Barb Flandon
“It Was Her”
Timmy, Yonkers & Skid
“A Lot Worse”
“He Needs a Partner”
“So What If I Did?”
“A Friend Like You”
“Process of Elimination”
“Steppin’ Out of the Shadows”
Finale: “If I Need a Partner,” “Protocol Says”
Finale ultimo: “A Friend Like You”
THE VENUE: The location of Peninsula Players Theatre’s Theatre in a Garden is about atmosphere – tall cedars and pines and shoreline vistas along the bay of Green Bay. The theater house is part of a campus that includes a workshop, office, rehearsal hall, dining hall, housing and more at 4351 Peninsula Players Road. Flowers and other decorative foliage grace footpaths that weave through the grounds, which have been extended to the south. Driving along Peninsula Players Road and passing farms and trees, the thought may occur: “This theater is in an unusual place.” The 621-seat theater house features Door County limestone in its interior décor. When the weather is friendly, the wooden slats of the side walls are rolled open to the outside. For cool fall nights, the theater floor is equipped with radiant heating for comfort. While the company dates back 87 years, the theater building is of 2006 vintage. The playhouse and theater were built on the site of the previous structure, which got wobbly with age. The location on the shores of Green Bay provides playgoers with pre-show picnicking and viewing the sunset. Here’s a theatrical rarity: The Players’ website provides sunset times.