REVIEW: TheatreSquared’s production of ‘Murder for Two’ features actors who are triple threats

TheatreSquared’s “Murder for Two” features just two actors – Brian Walters (blue shirt) and James Taylor Odom (pink shirt). Walters plays a wannabe police detective, and Odom plays 10 different murder suspects.

All photos: Wesley Hitt / Courtesy TheatreSquared

The deceptions of “Murder for Two” begin with the title. There are indeed two players onstage for the intermission-less, breathless show being staged by TheatreSquared through May 29.

One actor, Brian Walters, plays Marcus Moscowicz, a law enforcement officer hoping a murder in his small town is his pathway toward becoming a detective.

The other actor, James Taylor Odom, plays everyone else. And by everyone, I do mean everyone. Here’s just a partial list of the potential murder suspects Marcus must wade through: the aging diva Mrs. Whitley, or perhaps now Ms. Whitley, the recently widowed wife of the novelist Arthur Whitney; Stephanie, a graduate student with a particular interest in murder; Barrette Lewis, a prima ballerina who cannot stop dancing; a constantly arguing, elderly married couple; and five others for good measure.

What: TheatreSquared’s “Murder for Two”
When: Wed-Sun through May 29
Where: Nadine Baum Studios, Fayetteville
Cost: $15-$45
Tickets: 479-443-5600 or

Moscowitz, looking through the books scattered around the dead man, finds that many salient plot points of the onstage whodunit are also plot points from Whitney’s novels. As the action unfolds, we learn each character has a motive for the crime. This is no thinly veiled wink toward Agatha Christie or the dozen or so murder mysteries in constant rotation in community theaters around the country.

As far as “Murder for Two” is concerned, none of it matters.

Because while the murderer could be anyone, the actors certainly could not. “Murder for Two” serves primarily as a vehicle for two actors to have the maximum amount of onstage silliness. There is singing, dancing (sorta) and piano playing – both characters take their turn on the ivory. Unless things get so busy they are unable to wait for the other to finish, and both take to the same piano, playing with four hands. This happens several times during the show. And when “Murder for Two” is at its best, it really sings along, quite literally. At times, it’s doubled-over-in-your-seat funny. At other times, it’s merely entertaining, and that’s okay, too. It’s almost – and I do mean almost – too silly for its own good.

The bulk of the evening’s joy comes from watching the actors move at warp speed. Particularly, the challenge is upon Odom to embody the 10 different characters he portrays. He switches between them rapidly, sometimes with a subtle shift in hip position or the introduction of a shaking hand, one that belongs to an aging psychiatrist. The changes happen so fast that sometimes even Odom can’t keep up – and the script smartly uses the second character in those situations. At one point, Odom plays piano and belts out a tune, and Walters moves around him, spinning the hat on Odom’s head to signify a shift between characters. It’s exhausting as an audience member, and if the coating of sweat covering Odom at the end of the show is any indication, it’s plenty taxing for the actors, too.

The gaudy red room where the action is contained can barely hold the over-the-top nature of “Murder for Two.” The important plot points could be contained on a single sheet of paper – I found myself forgetting the names of many of the suspects just a few hours removed from the end of the show (and I don’t think that’s a factor of my age).

But I also suspect you’ll enjoy this zany bit of theater. The actors sure did, and that sells the show in many important ways.

More photos

All photos: Wesley Hitt / Courtesy TheatreSquared