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Carla Collins and Liesl Jackson in Murder, Anyone? at the Whitefire Theatre (Photo by James Sprague)

Carla Collins and Liesl Jackson in Murder, Anyone? at the Whitefire Theatre (Photo by James Sprague)


Murder, Anyone?

Reviewed by Lyle Zimskind
Whitefire Theatre
Through June 7

A big chunk of three-time Emmy-winning animation writer Gordon Bressack’s heart resides in the theater, and he’s always written plays. The third of these to reach the stage (after Fuggedaboudit and Missing Dick) is Murder, Anyone? an extended comedy sketch that Bressack is also directing and independently producing in a Wednesdays-only engagement over the next several weeks.

George (Jack Zullo) and Charlie (Devin Caldarone) are a pair of writers working together on a murder mystery for the stage. While they take turns at the computer keyboard and engage in creative brainstorming discussions and disputes, we watch successive scenes from their play that they write and revise. The work they’re creating is set in the drawing room of a mansion, where underdeveloped rich kids Bridgette (Liesl Jackson), Cooper (Abraham Smith) and Blain (Bruce Clifford) get tangled up in a criminal scheme. About halfway through, they’re visited by wacky French psychic medium Marie (Carla Collins), who undertakes a séance that advances the shifting plot.

It’s a smart idea, exposing how the writing process progresses in fits and start-overs by letting us peer inside the creation of words in imagined live action performance. Two writers imposing their separate visions on a common group of characters could offer a panoply of insights into how distinctive personal psychologies influence—and may even be influenced by—the events they describe. What we get here instead, though, is broad silliness along the lines of What if they had English accents? and Maybe that character should actually be a zombie!

Murder, Anyone? is more like a fringe festival-style two-dimensional starting point for a potentially interesting play than a ready-for-prime-time, fully conceived work. It has a few mildly funny lines, an energetic cast, and an unfulfilled premise. The whole endeavor feels like a busman’s holiday for Bressack at best, and ultimately a bit of a throwaway.

Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks. Wed., 8 p.m.; through June 7. murderanyone.bpt.me. Running time: 55 minutes with no intermission.

                                               

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