MANDATE FOR MURDER (TAKING A STAB AT POLITICS) is an audience participation murder mystery currently running at Barnstormers Theater in Ridley Park, PA. It is election night; friends/family/co-workers have gathered at the home of Delores MacDonald. They are waiting for their candidate Matt Kensington to show up; they plan to surprise him since it is also his birthday. Throughout the whole night the action flows between the stage and the audience area either with campaigners or stage characters. There is also a question and answer section when any audience member can ask questions of the actors (not the same as a talk back). On opening night I felt like I was transported to a political convention: red, white and blue Americana decorations set the stage (and audience area) perfectly. This perfection is challenged when a murder; or two (or maybe more) happen.
While the script has more holes than swiss cheese and is very weak, the actors try to do the best they can. Opening night jitters may have been to blame for several pregnant pauses and almost-missed lines. I wish that director Lisa Panzer (or assistant directors Tim McDaffrey and Barbara Lessin) had evened out the performances of the cast and made a stronger choice regarding the show’s genre. Is this a farce? A comedy? A drama? Or a vaudeville skit? I wasn’t sure.
At times it seemed that the players made cartoonish choices instead of creating real characters. And if the goal is a cartoonish piece, then go for it! Add more comedy bits and play up the corny and hokey aspects of the script even more. Kim Garrison as Macauley Tarleton plays her character well and in a straightforward manner, while Julie Lacontora makes a choice that her character Delores MacDonald is Ronald McDonald’s cousin. Animesh Karna as Commissioner Doggerty is also over the top but most of his bits fall flat. Vincent Zulfgar Ali as Matt Kensington is dead serious. Darwin Fuzzipants’ portrayal of Inspector Penguin left me cold. Elizabeth Gillin as television/radio reporter Kathleen Donovan found a good middle ground of quirkiness in her character. Despite the unevenness, I congratulate the large cast for their dedication and hard work.
The audience area is set up cabaret style (with different size tables) and very comfortable padded chairs. It’s a BYOB production. Having a drink and relaxing in a comfortable chair while enjoying a less than 2 hour show (with intermission) for a $10/$8 ticket is not a bad way to spend your night or afternoon. In this election year, paying a visit to The Barnstormers in Ridley Park may be just the ticket.
MANDATE FOR MURDER
(TAKING A STAB AT POLITICS)
Written by Pat Cook
Directed by Lisa Panzer
September 7-22, 2012
402 Tome St.
Ridley Park, PA 19078