Peggy Sue Dunigan

In Tandem’s darkly comic “Art of Murder”

By - Oct 25th, 2010 04:00 am

Steven M. Koehler, Tiffany Vance and T. Stacy Hicks discuss art. Mark Frohna photo for In Tandem Theatre.

“There’s a monster inside all of us.”

This key sentence opens a Pandora’s box of unexpected plot turns in Joe DiPietro’s deliriously wicked comedy, The Art of Murder. The In Tandem Theatre production, which opened Friday (Oct. 22)  looses monsters within all four characters on the Tenth Street Theatre Stage.

Who wants to murder whom — and why? Those questions hold your attention in every scene of this frantically paced two-hour show, set in the living room of Jack (Steven M. Koehler) and Annie (Tiffany Vance) Brooks.

The two artists await a discussion of Jack’s painting career with their dealer, Vincent (T. Stacy Hicks). In the meantime, the Brooks’ housekeeper Kate (Liz Shipe), deflects Jack’s sexual advances. She’s after a green card, so she can fulfill herself as the chemist she really is. Kate also frets over Jack’s treatment of Annie.

Annie is clear about the thesis of the play: “Most of us keep the monster buried but sometimes it must come out.” Act 1 introduces the latent devils in these characters. Act 2 unleashes them. The means is a silver isolation tank the size of a coffin. It occupies center stage the entire performance. Jack climbs in and out of the tank for treatments, and something about that is chilling.

Hicks, as the greedy, celebrity-struck Vincent believes, “a dead artist is most profitable… death (is) a terrific career move.” Hicks gives the loathsome Vincent a charming aplomb and makes his every gesture and expression worth watching.

Koehler allows the manic-depressive Jack an affectionate side. Vance makes the indignant, vengeful Annie something of an actress herself; she conceals her own monsters exceedingly well. Shipe, in a cameo role, offers an interesting counterpoint and reveals latent desires in the final scenes. Chris Flieller directs all this psychotic energy with deft timing.

To say anymore more specific might undermine the mystery. But I can point out the nature of some of the demons that glide beneath the surface of these attractive, upscale people.  For some people, it’s easy to appropriate, abuse or misuse others for another personal gain. Some need celebrity, money and power. Some men have problems with talented women.

Put those forces together in one room, and the result can be murder.

In Tandem Theatre presents The Art of Murder through Nov. 7. For information or tickets call:414.271.1371)

Categories: Theater

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