Behind the scenes at a killer community in the Asolo Rep's Murderers.
By Kay Kipling
Watching Jeffrey Hatcher’s Murderers, currently playing in rotation at the Asolo Rep, I had flashes of déjà vu that took me all the way back to 1950s television shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Remember those clever little bits of murder and mayhem neatly delivered in just half an hour, with Hitch introducing what we were about to see and then, at the end of the show, drolly reminding us that the evildoers, no matter how smart, inevitably paid for their crimes?
That’s something like the way Murderers works, only we get three half-hour episodes in one evening (and no Hitch). All three stories, told in monologues by the killers themselves, are set in a fictional (but very familiar) golfing/retirement community in a place much like Sarasota (here called Riddle Key). Though the three actors onstage speak only to us, not to each other, we do see connections between them, and they all share certain neighbors or doctors in common.
For starters, there’s Gerald (Bryan Torfeh), a dapper gent who marries his girlfriend’s dying mother (with the girlfriend’s permission) in order for them to inherit without paying onerous death taxes. But things get complicated when another gigolo type appears and Gerald has to face up to some conflicting emotions about his marriage of convenience—and commit a crime he never intended to at all.
In the second story, the crime is very much planned, by Lucy (Ann Morrison), half of a long-married couple, whose retirement with her husband is upset when a rival from the past turns up and threatens to destroy her marriage—again. Lucy’s plan to pay both hubby and hussy back involves lots of prescription drugs (apparently not a problem to get when you’re an old person who can convince a pharmacist of your forgetfulness) and some key timing of absences and appearances during a club party.
Mercedes Herrero in the Asolo Rep’s Murderers.
In the third story, we meet longtime Riddle Key community employee Minka (Mercedes Herrero), who again gets into her line of work more or less by accident, when she righteously does away with an avaricious couple who can’t be bothered to take good care of an aging mother. Since there’s lot of that “lock ’em up and forget about ’em” mentality in Riddle Key’s family dynamics, she’s got plenty to keep her busy—until it looks like she’s going to be blackmailed into doing her employer’s less altruistically inspired bidding. Fortunately, her favorite mystery writer of all time just happens to be living at Riddle Key, and may have a way out of her predicament…
All three stories are fun, filled with telling detail (accurate but not overdone references to Metamucil, Murder She Wrote and watching Jeopardy! on TV), and presented with just the right smart comedic tone by cast and director Mark Rucker. Clocking in at around 90 minutes with no intermission, Murderers is an entertainment calculated to leave you smiling rather than rolling in the aisles, but in times like these, we’ll take it.
Murderers plays through May 23; for tickets call 351-8000 or go to asolo.org.