This show slays with a killer set and cos­tumes COM­EDY

MUR­DER ON THE IM­PROV EX­PRESS

The Georgia Straight - - Arts -

Van­cou­ver Theatre­s­ports 2

League has mounted another killer show that slays the au­di­ence. Not lit­er­ally, natch, but in more than one way.

In Mur­der on the Im­prov Ex­press, a take­off on the 84-year-old mur­der mys­tery by Agatha Christie, one lucky spec­ta­tor gets to do a scene with the cast be­fore, not so luck­ily, get­ting offed. But, hey, you pays your money and you takes your chances.

Ac­tu­ally, no au­di­ence mem­ber is hurt in the mak­ing of this very funny show. It’s a great con­cept, brought to VTSL by alum Diana Frances, ex­pertly pro­duced by the com­pany, and di­rected by Nathan Clark. It takes place on a cross­canada train trip in the 1930s and the set dec­o­ra­tion and cos­tumes are aces. Great sound­track from the era, too.

De­tec­tive Poirot is on­board, as played on this night by Allen Mor­ri­son. The fa­mous in­ves­ti­ga­tor is, of course, Her­cule, but Mor­ri­son kept re­fer­ring to his char­ac­ter as Henri, ei­ther by de­sign or mis­take. Ei­ther way, it didn’t mat­ter; he had the twirly mus­tache and French ac­cent down pat, with more comedic chops than any other por­trayer of the great Bel­gian.

With his leg­endary de­duc­tive rea­son­ing, Poirot/mor­ri­son nar­rowed down the list of sus­pects to six. Coin­ci­den­tally, there were six other ac­tors on-stage: An­gela Galanopou­los, who played a minxy movie star; Michael Teigen, an or­phan who couldn’t close his mouth; Denise Jones and An­drew Bar­ber, who were bur­lesque per­form­ers; Pearce Visser, an Amer­i­can gummy-bear sales­man; and Mar­gret Ny­fors, a dour Com­mu­nist and the min­is­ter of cats. So much charisma and per­son­al­ity on-stage at one time. Like the 2017 and 1974 films, Thurs­day night’s show­ing boasted an all-star cast.

In their brief in­ter­ac­tion with au­di­ence mem­ber Paul, each char­ac­ter es­tab­lished a pos­si­ble mo­tive for why they might wish to get rid of him, but we were as much in the dark as H. Poirot was as to who re­ally dun­nit.

An En­dow­ment Scene (a clas­sic im­prov game in which a char­ac­ter leaves the set and has to work out clues when he or she reap­pears) helped bring real mys­tery to the pro­ceed­ings. Mor­ri­son left the stage and each sus­pect was given a qual­ity by the crowd, be it an ac­tiv­ity, an ob­ject, or an oc­cu­pa­tion. When the great de­tec­tive re­turned none the wiser, his in­ter­ro­ga­tions, along with some sly ref­er­ences from the im­pro­vis­ers, brought him to a clear un­der­stand­ing of each sus­pect’s “se­crets”, egged on by oohs and aahs from the know­ing pa­trons.

There will be no spoil­ers here, but if you’ve read the story or seen any of the movies, you might be able to guess the out­come. But it’s all be­side the point. The im­pro­vis­ers all mur­dered with their quick wits and out­landish char­ac­ter­i­za­tions.

> GUY MACPHER­SON

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