“Murder for Two” – The Phoenix Theatre Company

Theater Review – February 20, 2021


The Phoenix Theatre Company, Outdoor Theatre, Courtyard, Central United Methodist Church
Phoenix, AZ

The Phoenix Theatre Company was the first local live theater to be reborn after the pandemic closed venues last March.  Since November, TPTC has presented musical revues that have been safely and socially distanced in their new outdoor playhouse at the Central United Methodist Church courtyard north of the company’s theater complex.

Now TPTC has tackled a popular musical murder mystery farce, “Murder for Two.”  It’s refreshing to have a nicely staged and expertly performed show with two top-notch actors, local favorite Toby Yatso and Seth Tucker.

“Murder for Two” loudly mocks with hilarious predictability the popular “who-dun-it” thriller genre.  You will often be able to successfully guess the coming lyrics and the catchy little songs aren’t memorable but the performances make the show.

As the musical opens, there is an unexplained murder as characters in an elegant and large house clamor about trying to figure out who killed the household resident.  Enter a local police inspector who doubts his ability to solve the crime but nonetheless tackles the job.  Additional story details would spoil what plot there is but be assured it ends with an unlikely resolution.

It’s not the show, with music by Joe Kinosian, lyrics by Kellen Blair, and book by the pair, that makes an entertaining show.  It is the sharp production cleverly and brightly staged by Michelle Chin with visually suggestive Robert Kovach’s set pieces and Kristen Peterson’s cute video projections that help ensure success.

Beyond the visual trappings, come the comically commanding antics of the two performers.  Yatso plays an assortment of male and female suspects who inhabit the house.  Yatso employs various distinctive accents and vocal playfulness to make each character individualistic once you become familiar with the wacky personas he portrays.  Yatso’s best characterizations are his females although his vocal deepening creates viable men.  Tucker has a less showy role as the daffy detective Marcus but he milks the part’s slimmer humor and provides murderously funny malarkey for Yatso to play off.  Musical director Kevin White adds gusto to the score.

Because the show is a bit predictable and milks the genre’s sly mockery, there’s not a huge amount of suspense, so the show runs long even though the stage chicanery and performing is tops.  Remember to dress warmly to compensate for chilly outdoor temperatures.  “Murder for Two” runs through February 28.  For tickets, contact The Phoenix Theatre Company box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: B