Sunday, October 14, 2007

Play: Killer Jokes

Murderers by Jeffrey Hatcher, Directed by Steven Dietz, Seattle Rep, through 4 November.

One thing that I love about season tickets is the surprises. I mean the plays you go to without knowing a whole lot about, except that you have tickets. If your equivalent of the Lovely Bride came up to you and said "Honey, it's a nice day out. Let's go see a play set in a retirement village called "Murderers". Oh, and its not a play, but rather three monologues". You might pass.

And you would miss a very funny and sweet set of performances in the process.

It's monologues, which I believe is Latin for "No one back-talks you". But over the course of the three stories there are a lot of characters, as each of the murderers in the Riddle Key retirement community (they show up at the start like the lineup for "To Tell the Truth") gets their say.

And they are very funny. Mark Anders pkays a middle-aged man caught in a horrible tax dodge that results in him marrying his potential mother-in-law. Joan Port Hollander nails that retired woman of a certain age facing down a newly-arrived rival. And Sarah Rudinoff shines as Minka Lupino, an avenging vigilante angel whom you end up rooting for. Their performances make the words come alive, and while most monologists stay relatively inert, they have to work about blocking and emoting and spinning entire conversations on their own from thin air. There are a couple stumbles over the course of the monologues, as the actors seem to seek for the right words, but they all pull it off.

And those words - it turns out that playwright Hatcher has crossed my path before, as the non-speaking half of the team in "Tuesdays with Morrie", as well as "Work Song", the bioplay on Frank Lloyd Wright. Oh, and he's wrote a Columbo episode in the 90s. The thing is, he writes older people very well, and without heavier matters of importance weighing upon him, he sails and loops as easily and gracefully as a plywood glider. His word-choice for the second monologue, and the only one fully in the voice of a retiree, uses words that I grew up hearing my mom use - words like "Irks" and "Persnickity", and Ms. Hollander delivers them with the perfect cadence of one used to the words. There are some references that feel a little out of date for even retirees in the modern era, but they move smoothly through.

And I would be lax to note that, according the Lovely Bride/Tax Preparer, Hatcher got the nature of the capital gains tax laws wrong (There is something called an "Angel of Death step-up"), but since that drives much of the action in the first bit, it is a small quibble. One of the playgoers as leaving said how he (a callow youth) thought Ander's monologue was the best, I preferered Rudinoff's pure detective-novel nerdity that just shines through her performance.

OK, compared to the Bard in the next theater over, this is a lightweight, but its a charming little lightweight and perfect counterbalance for the heaviness found in even a Shakespeare comedy. A good bit of fun with murder.

More later,