DEATH BY CHOCOLATEby Paul Freed
Garland Civic Theatre
Director: Kyle McClaran
Stage Manager ? Drusilla Blakey
Set Design ? Kyle McClaran
Costume Design ? Kyle McClaran
Lighting Design ? Donna Covington
Sound Design ? Kyle McClaran
Properties ? Drusilla Blakey
Henry Meadowbrook ? Timothy Turner-Parrish
Lady Riverdale ? Mary Tiner
Dyslexia ? Meredith Moore
John Stone ? Marc Calloway
Ralph Deadwood ? Sergio Liibo Rodriguez
Margaret Daniels ? Marilyn Twyman
Alfred Mellox ? Duncan Rogers
Edith Chiles ? Julia E. Cotton
Dick Simmering ? Larry Borero
Anne ? Summer Steinfeld
Sweet Pea Meadowbrook ? Julia E. Cotton
Ed Parlor ? Timothy Turner-Parrish
Reviewed Performance: 1/22/2012
Reviewed by Jeremy William Osborne, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
As you walk into the theater at the Granville Arts Center in Garland, you are met with a lavishly decorated set, bordering on over-decoration. Coupled with the instrumental pre-show music which lends a fun, macabre mood to the scene, the set design's frenetic style well prepares the audience for the events they are about to witness. There is almost too much at which to look.
The lighting design also adds to the eerie mood of the scene, playing heavily in red and amber colors and casting dark shadows into the corners. Additionally, a green laser light is focused on stage left, giving the appearance of little pixies floating across the scenery.
Death by Chocolate begins, as murder mysteries tend to, with a murder. And with the murder the audience is treated to the farcical, convulsing, zany death scene that is repeated throughout the play. Physical comedy defines the performances in Death by Chocolate. However, technophobes should be wary and avoid the front row.
All characters in Death by Chocolate have their dark secrets or failings, making them all suspects in the series of mysterious deaths. A fact pointed out by Ed Parlor, the eccentric murder-mystery writer who appears on the scene ready to help solve the mysteries and in the process use the events as a premise for his next book. His discussion of the formula for writing a murder-mystery laughably coincides with the action of the play.
Each character is a broad representation of a type. John Stone is the inept leader, a la Groucho Marx's Rufus T. Firefly. There's the Hispanic lothario, Ralph Deadwood, who oozes machismo. Dick Simmering is the fabulously flamboyant aerobics instructor. And the hilarious use of a padded suit to fill out the characters of Edith Chiles and Sweet Pea, both played by the greatly talented Julia E. Cotton, add to the hilarity of a scene simply with their presence.
Meredith Moore, as the sassy Dyslexia, turns in an extraordinary performance. Each word she speaks is dripping with sarcasm and/or contempt. Dyslexia doesn't attempt to hide her displeasure as she huffs and begrudgingly moves around the stage as if each movement requires more effort than it is worth. The audience must wonder what more is there to this character that makes her act this way.
Duncan Rogers as the janitor Alfred Mellox also delivers a performance worthy of praise. Duncan's portrayal is gruff but intelligent and layered. We see Alfred discover and promptly cover up the murder in the first scene as a suicide. However, he also lovingly cares for Sweet Pea, the daughter of the deceased Meadowbrook. Can he truly be trusted?
Making her stage debut as Anne, the constantly hysterical, pill-popping nurse, Summer Steinfeld does an exceptional job. Watching her become increasingly intoxicated and stagger around the stage as Death by Chocolate goes on is highly entertaining. I'm sure we'll gladly see her take on more roles in the near future.
Death by Chocolate keeps the audience guessing "Who done it?" while they try to catch their breath from laughter. With an assembly of characters straight out of a clown college, a haunting lighting design, and a fun soundtrack reminiscent of Beetlejuice or The Addams Family, it is an enjoyable evening out any one can appreciate.
Granville Arts Center
300 N. Fifth St. Garland, TX 75040
Runs through February 11th, 2012
Thursday, January 26th only at 7:30 pm
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm with Sunday matinees at 2:30pm
Special Saturday, Feb. 11th performance times at 12:30 pm and again at 6:00 pm.
Tickets are $22 for adults
Groups of 10 or more are $18 each.
For information, go to www.garlandcivictheatre.org.
To purchase tickets, call their box office at (972) 205-2790.