Perfect Crime

Perfect Crime is perfectly implausible, but its so entertaining–so watchable–that’s one can almost understand how it has come to New York’s longest-running non-musical play.

Almost. Perfect Crime is fun, but I don’t know how to explain the apparent word-of-mouth (and, presumably, repeat visits) that continue to keep this second-rate thriller afloat after more than a dozen years. The story is full of holes and littered with red herrings; the staging is straightforward but not particularly stylish.

The ace-in-the-hole is Catherine Russell, the show’s leading lady and general manager, who has made a career out of playing Margaret Thorne Brent, the show’s tough and sexy heroine and number one suspect. Ms. Russell delivers a powerhouse star turn as this psychiatrist who may or may not have murdered her husband (and a few other people), and who may or may not be attracted to the steadfast detective who has come to investigate some reported funny business at the Brents’ remote Connecticut farmhouse.

Michael Minor, who years ago was the love interest on TV’s Petticoat Junction, proves to be Ms. Russell’s match in the less showy role of the detective. Rounding out the cast are David Butler as Margaret’s husband and Walter Cline as a very strange patient; both are fine.

Like this season’s Voices in the Dark, Perfect Crime has lots of sexy talk and gun-toting action. Ms. Russell’s Margaret is a far more satisfying heroine than Judith Ivey’s radio psychologist; and Perfect Crime, though no Ellery Queen novel, is a far better constructed mystery than Voices. It’s certainly a great deal more fun.

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