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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Review: Two-man musical spoofs mystery genre at Arizona Theatre Company


    Courtesy of Joan Marcus / Arizona Theatre Company

    Ian Lowe and Joe Kinosian in Arizona Theatre Company’s ʺMurder for Two.ʺ The performance will run in Tucson until Dec. 20 before heading to Phoenix from Dec. 31 to Jan. 18.

    Two guys, one piano, lots of sweat and an infinite amount of laughs.

    The simple setup of Arizona Theatre Company’s latest production, “Murder for Two,” makes the talent of its two actors all the more astounding. There are no lavish set pieces or elaborate costumes in the new musical comedy, just two guys alternating as pianist and actor on a bare stage.

    The tone of the story is part-spoof and part-melodrama. Taking the formulaic tropes of an Agatha Christie mystery and injecting the untamable antics of the Marx Brothers, “Murder for Two” is the best of both worlds.

    Joe Kinosian and Ian Lowe, the two principals, are modern vaudevillians in an era of theatrical extravagance. In a time where Broadway is oversaturated with multimillion dollar Disney crossover adaptations, Kinosian and Lowe’s raw talent is a humble reminder of the lack of material artifice needed to stage a good story.

    Kinosian steals the spotlight for the majority of the 90-minute show, as he masterfully rotates through a revolving-door of characters at the drop of a hat. At one moment, leaping across the stage as a European exotic dancer, Kinosian quickly switches into a brash, smarmy psychiatrist using nothing more than exaggerated hand gestures and drops in vocal pitch. All together, Kinosian hops around between 10 distinct characters throughout the show — and he’s got the pit-stains to prove it.

    Lowe, on the other hand, has a somewhat more manageable role, as he solely portrays Marcus, the spunky, ambitious wannabe detective out to track down a killer through Kinosian’s cascade of suspects. Watching the two actors is like watching Neil Patrick Harris and the late Robin Williams play a game of carefully choreographed charades; miming props and talking to imaginary characters, Lowe and Kinosian make the show feel like an extended improvised scene usually seen at Second City or The Groundlings.

    The actual meat of the musical’s plot gets a bit lost through all the high-energy showmanship, but Lowe and Kinosian purposely make “Murder for Two” a mystery not so much about whodunit but about the lunacy of the convenient circumstances more often found in an episode of “Scooby Doo, Where are You!”

    Kinosian and Lowe boldly satirize the murder-mystery genre by making frequent self-referential notions to the fact they are acting in a play. Typically breaking character to make a subversive comment on a character’s idiocy or the audience’s misguided reaction to a scene, the duo smoothly breaks the fourth wall and gives “Murder for Two” a flavor of cynical postmodernism.

    An unspoken, underlying feud between Kinosian and Lowe adds a tantalizing layer of humor in this already jam-packed production of boisterous, unapologetic comedy.

    Slinging evil glares from across the stage and fighting for control over the piano, Kinosian and Lowe’s out-of-character immaturity strangely elevates “Murder for Two” to a mature level of wit.

    The musical numbers, though originally written, are predictable and reminiscent of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Kinosian and Lowe commit to their ballads with a toe-tapping enthusiasm that becomes contagious for the viewer. At one point exceeding to complete tawdriness, Kinosian belts a cheesy, 1980s-themed solo number with a fearlessness that meets the audience’s approval.

    Kinosian and Lowe will continue performing their dazzling dance of comedy until Dec. 20 at Arizona Theatre Company.


    Follow Kevin C. Reagan on Twitter.

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