Proving that there’s no place like Holmes, “Much Ado About Murder”, written and directed by Paul Vander Roest for Act Out Mystery Theatre at the Reef Restaurant, features a to-die-for script that features our favorite fictional detectives who gather to swap notes, trade stories and end up solving a murder. Delivering non-stop twists, turns, and laughs, its humor is broad, expansive, and, if you’ve been to these Act Out productions before, to be expected.
With the talent assembled at a meeting for the Society of Daring Detectives and Murder Mystery Mavens and Moguls, you would think that it would be easy-peasy to solve the murder of famed detective novelist Hagatha Christie (Jullian Fergie Yim). Motives abound. Hagatha had just published a tell-all book, “Much Ado About Murder”, which names names and reveals secrets better left unrevealed. The sleuthing is sub par; the list of subjects grows exponentially because we see the underbellies of our beloved sleuths. Just like the rest of us, they’re really just a bunch of vain, potty, and supercilious human beings.
The production serves heaping helpings of humor. The acting reminds us why we dine between acts; otherwise we’d choke with laughter. The performers wow us with their sight gags (facial expressions, movements), their enchanting way of remaining in character even when they move off center stage, and their crazy-good voices (especially Natasha Lloyd’s Detective Julia Childish, Yim’s preternaturally righteous Judy Garland-like Dorothy Frail, and Carson Gilmore’s Colombo-esque Lieutenant Mumblelow).
Whether they play up to us or else try to keep from busting up when the audience participants quixotically wander off script, the cast nails the idiosyncrasies of their respective character. Gilmore’s Mumblelow swallows his words, while his Hemlock Holmes is chagrined because his grandfather may be the fabled Sherlock but his father is none other than Shemp Howard of the Three Stooges. Lloyd’s Childish is exquisitely unselfconscious: she has no clue she’s so loud, her voice so high pitched, her movements and manner so gauche. Hercules Poirot is prickly, as befits a Belgian, while his Bond is skittish, acrobatic, and so damn eager to shoot someone. Lara Starr Rigores’s Nancy New (as in Drew) bristles with adolescent perkiness while her Miss Maple speaks a hilarious seal talk with her creator, Hagatha (Kim).
With a gorgeous view of Long Beach, the Reef Restaurant offers a posh setting, appropriate for a convention of super sleuths and a room of hungry murder mystery fans. This elegant setting, along with the gravity of the murders (though Yim’s Christie does endure a melodramatically prolonged death), contrasts nicely with the goofiness of the personalities, egos, and foibles of our heroes. Well, our so-called heroes: because of reality TV and a 24/7 news cycle we quickly learn that that our heroes are not what we imagine them to be at all.
Performances are 7pm, Fri. & Sat., 1:30, Sun. The show runs until May 15. Tickets are $49.95, which includes a show ticket and a three-course meal. The Reef Restaurant is located at 880 South Harbor Scenic Drive. For more info call 961-9862 or visit www.actoutmystery.com.