Twelve suspects, two men, one piano. Murder for Two is a new Off-Broadway show filled with laughter, glitter, surprisingly hilarious dance numbers and cold-blooded murder. Performed entirely by Jeff Blumenkrantz and Brett Ryback, two equally talented men who complement each other quite well, this 90-minute comedy answers the question of who committed the murder of great American author Arthur Whitney.
The show opens as guests are arriving to the surprise party of Arthur Whitney. As Whitney enters his home, he is shot at point blank. Enter Marcus Moscowicz, a wannabe detective who steps in to solve the crime due to the absence of the real detective, who is on his way. He uses his “protocol,” explaining step-by-step, in song, exactly what needs to be done to determine who murdered Whitney. He begins his interrogation and tries to piece together the moments before the murder. Whitney’s niece, Steph, begins to pursue Moscowicz and wants to help solve the case to be able to incorporate it into her thesis. Moscowicz is hesitant to allow her to assist him, as she is an amateur. Ultimately, Steph winds up playing a vital role in the resolution of the murder and provokes a subplot of romance.
Meanwhile, more information is revealed about the twelve suspects through Blumenkrantz’s precise portrayal of each character. From the old married couple, to the prima ballerina, to the wife of Arthur Whitney, everyone at the party is deemed suspicious. Along the way, Marcus realizes that each party guest has a motive to kill the author; after realizing he exploited them in his novels. Near the show’s end, he becomes frazzled and frustrated because his protocol has led him astray and he has not come any closer to solving the mystery. The audience is left in suspense wondering who committed the murder.
A highlight of Murder for Two is undoubtedly the aspect of audience participation. One truly ridiculous scene involved a man from the audience, picked randomly by Blumenkrantz. His job was to lie down and pretend to be a dying man. The audience member acted the part out as well as he could by sticking his tongue out and creating leg spasms as instructed by Ryback. The audience was in stitches laughing, as was the “dying” man on stage. Additionally, Moscowicz’s phone would ring throughout the performance to alert him as to where the real detective was, and Blumenkrantz would immediately drop whichever character he was portraying to begin berating the audience. The audience’s response to this bit grew with each interjection, as Blumenkrantz really played this segment to the fullest extent. This elimination of the fourth wall to allow for an interactive experience and helped make the overall performance more memorable.
Blumenkrantz and Ryback, best known for his collaboration with University professor and artist Ryan Scott Oliver on Darling, work effortlessly together to deliver clarity in a show that could easily become confusing. Blumenkrantz has said, “He maintains his one character, while I morph around him, which ultimately gives more texture to what we both are doing.”
It is amazing how Blumenkrantz manages to get every character just right, whether he is pretending to be girly grad-student, Steph, or three separate choirboys. The two actors have great chemistry on stage and manage to create and maintain such a strong dynamic throughout their performance. Not only do they both possess the necessary acting and performance skills, but also both are gifted pianists and are responsible for all of the music in Murder for Two. Often, one would sing while the other would play. However, there were some hilarious duets requiring improvisation and both performers delivered every time. The show ends with a thrilling duet that showcases their talents and performance abilities.