▲ Poster of Murder for Two. Provided by OD Company.
Murder and comedy—these are two words that are usually considered opposite. This is because death, which is distant from humor, is involved in murder. The musical Murder for Two, however, merges these two elements into a successful black comedy, changing the seemingly impossible integration into a harmony. What enables such realization is perhaps the outstanding acting of the two actors who turn out to be 13 different characters composing the plot. Recently making its debut in Korea, Murder for Two provides the audience with an unforgettable memory full of laughter and entertainment.
Murder for Two, a musical comedy created by American composer Joe Kinosian and writer Kellen Blair, was first staged in Chicago in 2011. After its debut, it created a large sensation, eventually gaining massive popularity and winning the 2011 Joseph Jefferson Award, which is given to outstanding theatre works released in Chicago. It finally arrived in Seoul, after achieving large success both on Broadway and in Japan. The work is considered as a novel innovation in the area of musical comedy in that it utilizes crime as the main material for the plot. In addition, the Korean version not only maintains such uniqueness, but also makes some new adjustments that intensify the dramatic effect of the work.
▲ Scenes from Murder for Two. Provided by OD Company.
The storyline starts with a murder case surrounding the death of the renowned mystery writer Steven Queen at his birthday party. Marcus, an ambitious police officer who strictly adheres to rules, tries to identify the murderer among the six suspects before the real investigators arrive at the scene. However, being inexperienced and unskillful, he encounters several challenges as he investigates the case. While this musical could have been a thriller with a heavy atmosphere, Marcus’ amateurishness and the diversity of suspects’ characters become comical features, changing the show into an enjoyable comedy. Consequently, both tension and humor coexist throughout the plot, allowing the audience to be immersed in the play.
From the perspective of the audience, the exemplary acting of the two actors is simply hard to overlook. As mentioned above, the two actors become 13 different characters, with one actor being in charge of six suspects who display wide ranges of age and personality. The actor’s overaction and exaggeration in his acting, due to such variety, becomes another aspect that the audience can find enjoyable. Throughout the play, the actor in charge of the suspects alters his voice and tone every moment in order to enable conversations between different suspects. He even sings a mixed duet song with himself by becoming both the female and the male. Such versatility of the actors that makes this entire musical possible simply amazes the audience.
The pianist is an unsung hero of the musical in that he is as an influential figure in the aspect of both the music and the plot. Interestingly, the pianist can only be seen in the Korean version of this musical; originally, the actors themselves play the piano. While he is a professional pianist, he plays an additional role as an actor throughout the plot. The background and the instrumental music solely relies on his magnificent performance. However, he is not separated from the play; instead, he is always inside the scene, acting as Officer Lou, the partner of Marcus. He even uses the melody of the piano to communicate with other characters instead of directly saying a line, which proves to be another fascinating attraction to the audience.
Another unique part of this musical is related to its stage setting and design. The distance between the stage and the audience is very close, enabling frequent interaction between the actors and the viewers. For instance, the actors exchange jokes with the audience in the front row before starting the musical, and they even make improvised jokes based on the reaction of the audience during the play. Furthermore, the hall where the musical is held is relatively small and compact compared to large halls where classical musicals are performed. Even though the overall atmosphere is not grandiose, the audience can watch the play in a cozy and comfortable setting, as if they are watching a comedy show on television in their homes after dinner.
▲ Scenes from Murder for Two. Provided by OD Company.
Even though the confined stage size first seems to be an obstacle to this play, Murder for Two cleverly overcomes such constraint by using different strategies. One unique technique is the utilization of mime by the two actors, along with their performances, to expand the range of the setting. Miming allows the creation of places that cannot be realized on the stage through the imagination of the audience, and the exaggerated gestures of mime function as additional comical features. In addition, in the latter part of the play, the audience seats also become part of the stage as the actor sings a song in one of the seats.
While several new attempts were made for the creation of this play, there also exists some space for criticism. To some viewers, the plot itself may seem to be ambiguously standing on the boundary between thriller and comedy. Therefore, it might not be a satisfactory choice for those who expect an investigation full of tension and suspense. Furthermore, throughout the play, the two actors exaggerate their performances too much to enable the existence of the 13 characters. As a result, the overall plot, which revolves around a murder case, may seem a bit convoluted without enough clarification to some viewers.
Nevertheless, Murder for Two should be considered as an innovation and a pioneer in the area of musical in that it completely shifted the paradigm regarding classical musicals. The immeasurable amount of effort made by the two talented actors on stage turn an impossibility into a miraculous combination of thriller and comedy. If there is anyone who wants to accompany Marcus’ absorbing investigation while laughing out loud, Murder for Two will be a perfect choice.
▲ Marcus, the main character. Photographed by Lee Hye Min.
Venue: DCF DaeMyung Culture Factory Life Way Hall 2
08:00 P.M. (Tuesday~Friday)
03:00 & 07:00 P.M. (Saturday)
02:00 & 06:00 P.M. (Sunday, Holiday)
R seat for 35,000 won
S seat for 21,000 won (University students discount price)
A seats for 20,000 won for Korea University (KU) students until May 14.