Like any good crime drama, The Murder Room starts off with someone being, predictably enough, murdered. The culprit cleverly spends the next few scenes diverting the attention of law enforcement officers before realizing the perfect crime wasn’t nearly as perfect as planned. Act two is more mystery than procedural with end revelations that are as dizzying as they are far-fetched. The story is satisfyingly silly and strange making for an excellent start to 2016.
At the surface, the plot of The Murder Room is simple. What makes it complex and interesting is the brilliant wordsmithing: twists of language, misinterpretations, repetitions, and a fast-paced dialogue make this show engaging and fun. There was some slapstick action to be sure, but this farce mostly drew laughs from its absurd script and the effortless delivery of its actors who all brought a charming innocence and joy to their roles.
What I loved about The Murder Room is that its comedy was elevated above the level of “let’s laugh at people being dumb” despite every character being, well, not that bright. I couldn’t exactly relate to any of the characters but I sure liked them – even though each was more bumbling and foolish than the last. From a perpetually suspicious foreign housekeeper to an incredibly ditzy daughter just back from college, only the criminal mastermind had a level head and even that wavered on occasion.
Yet despite being arguably the smartest one in the room, the murderer never came across as being elitist or exasperated because it was understood that this unique group of people simply had their own special views on the world. Everyone on stage did an excellent job creating a world where confusing banter was the norm: I was so pulled into these character’s lives that their illogical conclusions started to make real sense to me. I appreciate that they played their roles with affection and care.
The whole cast and crew should be applauded for their work on this production but I would like to particularly commend Irish O’Brien for her over-the-top, perfectly sultry acting and Maryse Fernandes for doing the impossible: making the densest character I have ever seen not only believable but likeable. The set designer needs mention for the clever booby traps and secret hatches built throughout the otherwise plain looking living room. The 1970s period costumes totally made my night, particularly the disguise of Mr. Edgar Hollister. And the bit at the end with the bicycle was exceptionally well staged.
The Murder Room is the most ridiculous piece of theater I have ever seen and it was delightful through and through. Ottawa Little Theater has once again delivered an entertaining evening well worth the trudge in the snow.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d like to know what you think. Was this send-up to lock-room murder mysteries a witty parody or a cliched bore? Did you predict the twist of the constable’s true identity? What about the final scene – did you see that coming? Join the discussion in the comments below.
The Murder Room is presented by The Ottawa Little Theater. It runs now through January 30th at the OLT. Visit their show page for show times and how to buy tickets.