ART OF MURDERby Joe DiPietro
Director: Terry Dobson
Set Design: Jeffrey Schmidt
Lighting Design: Amanda West
Costume Design: Bruce R. Coleman
Sound Design: Marco Salinas
Kate: Erica Harte
Annie: Ashton McClearin
Vincent Cummings: Michael Serrecchia
Jack: Jordan Willis
Reviewed Performance: 4/16/2012
Reviewed by Jeremy William Osborne, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Over the years audiences have been lucky enough to see some of the best performances in DFW spring from the stage at Theatre Three. Art of Murder keeps to this tradition.
Art of Murder reunited director Terry Dobson with a work by Joe DiPietro. A combination which earlier this year brought the hilarious I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change to the Theatre Too stage. However, Art of Murder was a dramatic tone change from the whimsical, light-hearted comedy. This was a murder mystery sure to delight Agatha Christie fans of any age.
Walking into Theatre Three's arena stage we were greeted by the studio living space of Jack and Annie Brooks. Their living space was what could be expected of young, hip New England artists. A brightly colored couch clashed with a Cookie Monster blue shag carpet in the center of the stage. The studio painting space in one corner was white, well lit, and cluttered with art supplies and previous projects. A hanging, wicker, egg chair completed the studio area. I'm sure Jeffrey Schmidt spent many hours looking through urban home decor periodicals to find the exact look he was going for with this set design. It was a lot like a scene from Urban Home Magazine.
Neither lighting nor sound design played a role in the play until they were necessary to raise the drama to a fever pitch in the second act. At which point it was highly effective at establishing an eerie and frightening scene. Loud bangs from uncertain directions and random instances of other uncanny sounds meshed well with a long sustained, creepy, low note. Those combined with well-placed blackouts and underlighting effects, as if someone were playing with the circuit breakers to the house, elevating tensions to an uneasy level.
The characters of Art of Murder were problematic. All the parts were well acted and the lines were delivered incredibly naturally. It was often easy to forget I was viewing a play and not indulging in some strange act of voyeurism. However, it was difficult to form any kind of sympathetic connection with any of them. With the exception of Kate, who lacked enough stage time to establish more than the basics of her character, all were flawed, greed-filled individuals. Halfway through the show I found myself unconcerned with who ended up dead nor who was the killer.
I wished the character of Kate were given more stage time. It could have added more interesting turns to the plot. Although, she was integral to the end of the play. Erica Harte, as seen in her performances of Natalie in Next to Normal at Uptown Players and in Spring Awakening at Watertower Theater last year, is a wonderful actress. To tease the audience with mere glimpses of her throughout the performance was simply unfair.
Jack Brooks, portrayed by Jordan Willis, and Annie Brooks, played by Ashton McClearin, were a couple of slimy, manipulative characters who truly deserved each other. Willis, as the domineering and dangerous Jack, gave the audience a definite target for their collective disgust. We were almost waiting for someone to kill him. In fact, half the first act was filled with a hypothetical "what would happen to Jack's career after his death" conversation between Jack, Annie, and their art dealer, Vincent, with Annie jokingly going for the gun at the end of it. McClearin played the conniving yet sultry Annie to deadly perfection.
Between the two quarreling lovers was thrust the colorful Vincent Cummings, portrayed by Michael Serrecchia. His performance brought some much needed levity to the serious and forboding nature of a murder mystery.
Like a foodie enjoying each nibble of a confectionery, Serrecchia delighted in every moment he was on stage. However, Vincent was not without his own dark secrets, which were turned against him as the plot thickened.
Art of Murder at Theatre Three was a very well-played and enjoyable show. If you are a fan of murder mysteries like Agathy Christie you will definitely have fun with this performance. I recommend stopping by Theatre Three after dinner at one of the nearby uptown cafes and taking in this truly wonderful piece of art.
Theatre Three, 2800 Routh St., Dallas, TX 75201
Runs through May 12th
Thursdays & Sundays at 7:30 pm
Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 pm
Sunday matinees at 2:30 pm
Ticket Prices - $10 to $50
For info and to purchase tixs, go to www.theatre3dallas.com or call their box office at 214- 871-3300, Mon.-Wed. 12-5pm and Thurs. ? Sun. 12- 7pm.