If you happen to be strolling down Clarendon Street and sense that the building housing the Lyric Stage Company is vibrating, it is not your imagination. No, for inside is the real, raucous laughter of a few hundred audience members taking in Murder for Two, a simple but side-splitting musical comedy that is easily the funniest show to play Boston this year.
A good old-fashioned murder mystery with a modern sensibility, Murder for Two centers around Marcus (the ever charming Jared Troilo), a cop desperate to become a detective, who is the first on the scene of a suspicious murder at a lavish estate. The man of the house was shot and killed upon arriving at his dark home, which was filled to the brim with guests hiding in the shadows, waiting to jump out and surprise him for his birthday. The guests, all of which are immediate suspects, are all played by the extraordinary Kirsten Salpini.
The house is put on lockdown, and Marcus works quickly to solve the crime before the real detective can show up, hoping that his success will guarantee him a promotion. Marcus works his way through the suspects, most of whom have a motive. Most memorable of Salpini's characters are Dahlia, the victim's eccentric widow; the constantly bickering Murray and Barb; a "bombastic ballerina" named Barrette; three young boys; and Steph, a student looking to use the murder investigation as her thesis. The mystery of Murder for Two is not so rich as to keep you guessing on the edge of your seat, but the irrelevant, irreverent characters make this a caper worth seeing.
Both Troilo and Salpini, who have irresistible, indispensible chemistry, also provide the musical accompaniment for all of the numbers, occasionally playing one piano at the same time. The music and lyrics, by Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair (who cowrote the show's nimble book) are generally nothing more than quick ditties, but the lyrics offer lots of genuine laughs.
But Murder for Two is more than just an amusing musical comedy. It is heralding the arrival of Kirsten Salpini on the Boston theater scene. Of the roughly 10 roles that she plays, cycling through them with dizzying speed and dazzling finesse, Salpini brings each of them to vivid, perfect life. Her gift for comedy is, in itself, a certain kind of magic.
Director A. Nora Long unfurls this tale at a rapid-fire pace, aware that little shows like this can run the risk of overstaying their welcome, though this one never does. Long has curated the indomitable charms and winning chemistry of Troilo and Salpini to perfection and helps to prove that if laughter is the best medicine, then Murder for Two is one hell of a tonic.
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