HOT EVENTS MGT MAGAZINE VISITING ARCHIVE MGT PARTNERS MGT TEAM
My Gay Toronto - MGT Stage

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder excels at murder most entertaining


by Drew Rowsome -
Photos y Marc Lemyre


A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder runs until Sun, June 26 at the Princess of Wales Theatre, 600 King St W. mirvish.com

The sumptuous curtains of a jewel box theatre, complete with seashell floorlights, part and a Gothic cast of characters admonish the audience that what is about to transpire is dire and dark and amoral, best to leave now. The choral warning is just a comic prelude to a giddy mix of pitch-black comedy, operetta and eye-popping staging. Monty Navarro is writing his memoirs, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, from a prison cell, and he regales the audience with the tale of how he claimed his dubiously rightful inheritance by gleefully murdering all who stood in his way.

Kevin Massey, who plays Monty, has a conspiratorial wink that pops through the fourth wall and invites, and implicates, the audience into the fun of familial slaughter. Merely arching an eyebrow brings down the house. The victims are all played by John Rapson in a series of rapid-fire costume changes, distinctive and eccentric speech patterns, a thick layering of innuendo and nary a wink until the very end. Rapson creates, with seemingly virtuositic ease, a priest, a dowager, an army major, a theatrical diva, a fey cousin (borderline offensive but very funny) and a few surprises, 

All the victims die in unique, hilarious and mildly Grand Guignol fashions courtesy of the third star of A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder: a stunningly versatile set that makes use of projections, video, split-second timing and considerable wit, to create multiple settings and gloriously grotesque deaths. To describe any, or how they are achieved, would be a spoiler worthy of being the next to be dispatched. The bodies pile up, and the laughs pile on top of each other, so quickly that the first act leaves the audience dizzy with delirious laughter. 

At first listen the music seems undistinguished (the lyrics are uniformly witty and crisply delivered) but an earworm had lodged in my head, one that I hummed and then overheard three other audience members turning over in their larynxes. There are no splashy musical numbers with sing-along choruses, but the gravity of the recitative and soaring notes (including an impossible falsetto from Rapson) provides a necessary counterpoint to balance out the silliness and gore. 

The second act starts strong with a show-stopping set piece involving a set of doors cribbed from a classic French force, but is unable to sustain the frothy - comic and jugular - momentum that drives the first act. Though the two points of the love triangle - Kristen Beth Williams as a calculating cool blonde radiating heat, and Adrienne Eller as the sweet brunette with lust in her heart - are both delightful and have moments of delicious deviousness, the stakes are not high enough to keep the audience engaged. A final punchline almost saves the day but the damage has been done, what was brilliant is now just very good. 

To have us side with Navarro, the family members are pompous and stuffed to bursting with noblesse oblige. Asquith D'Asquith Jr (Rapson in fine voice) sings "I Don't Understand the Poor" - containing the delectable couplet "To be so debased/Is in terrible taste" - and the audience is invited to savour the revenge of the 1%. It's not that simple of course and the lack of morals becomes the grisly heartbeat of the show (it is the sheer absence of scruples that is the basis of the attraction between Navarro and the slinky but ice cold Sibella in the dominant love story). But I doubt anyone was too bothered with fuzzy politics and fluffy satire, personally I was too entranced, caught up in the buoyant joy of murder most entertaining on a scale that would give even Jessica Fletcher pause.

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder runs until Sun, June 26 at the Princess of Wales Theatre, 600 King St W. mirvish.com


16

 

RELATED ARTICLES / ARCHIVE:
- Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: metaphor made into theatrical magic - Oct - '17
- Review: Flashing Lights: fable and art - Oct - '17
- Review: Undercover - Sep - '17
- Review: North by Northwest: a giddy delirious thriller - Sep - '17
- Review: Turtleneck: sex, violence, porn and red hot hilarity - Sep - '17
- Review: Hedwig and the Angry Inch: escaping the dungeon of gender, Hart House and rock n roll - Sep - '17
- Review: The Seat Next to the King: gay interracial sex is more powerful than fear - Sep - '17
- Review: Volta: the magic of the circus thrives - Sep - '17
- Review: Pippi - Aug - '17
- Review: Permanence - Jul - '17
- Review: King Lear - Jul - '17
- Review: Cavalia - Jul - '17
- Review: Beautiful - Jul - '17
- Review: 8 Morro & Jasp In Stupefaction - Jun - '17
- Review: The Lavender Railroad - Jun - '17
- Review: Showstopper - Jun - '17
- Review: Youth/Elder Project- Jun - '17
- Review: Situational Anarchy- May - '17
- Review: It's All Tru!- May - '17
- Review: The Return (il ritorno): Circa ...- May - '17
- Review: Midsummer (a play with songs)...- May - '17
- Review: Prince Hamlet - Apr '17
- Review: 887: memory becomes extraordinary - Apr '17
- Review: Little Pretty and The Exceptionals - Apr '17
- Review: Jack Charles v The Crown - Apr '17
- Review: A Kiss with a vicious bite - Mar '17
- Review: Souzatzka - Mar '17
- Review: Mrs Henderson Presents - Mar '17
- Review: Blood Weddings - Mar '17
- Review: Book Of Mormon - Mar '17
- Review: Cirkopolis - Mar '17
- Review: The Bodyguard - Feb '17
- Review: Five Faces for Evelyn Frost - Feb '17
- Review: My Night with Reg - Feb '17
- Review: Blue Remembered Hills - Feb '17
- The 38th Rhubarb Festival - Feb '17
- Review: James and the Giant Peach - Feb '17
- Review: Carrie - Jan '17
- Review: Audience - Jan '17
- Review: Sisters Act - Dec '16
- Review: Who Killed Spalding Gray? - Dec '16
- Review: Swan - Nov '16
- Review: Cuisine & Confessions - Nov '16
- Review: The (Post) Mistress - Oct '16
- Review: The Circle: the kids are not alright - Oct '16
- Review: Birdtown and Swanville - Oct '16
- Review: Late Night - Oct '16
- Review: Concord Floral - Oct '16
- Review: Blind Date - Sep '16
- Review: Pearle Harbour - Sep '16
- Review: West Side Story - Aug '16
- Review: Chippendales - Aug '16
- Review: Mr Shi and His Lover - Aug '16
- Review: Tomorrow's Child, NO FUN - Aug '16
- Review: Thank You For Being A Friend - Aug '16
- Review: Luzia - Jul '16
- Review: Peter and the Starcatcher - Jul '16
- Review: Shakespeare in High Park II - Jul '16
- Review: Shakespeare in High Park I - Jul '16
- Review: Bright Lights - Jul '16
- Review: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat - Jun '16
- Review: Forever Plaid - May '16
- Review: A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder - May '16
- Review: The Closet - May '16
- Review: Mousetrap - May '16
- Review: Botticelli in the Fire & Sunday in Sodom - May '16
- Review: Anne of Green Gables - Apr '16
- Review: Scarberia - Apr '16
- Review: If-Then - Apr '16
- Review: The Wizard of Oz - Apr '16
- Review: The Terrible Parents - Apr '16
- Review: The Judas Kiss - Mar '16
- Review: The Crackwalker - Mar '16
- Review: No Strings (Attached) - Mar '16
- Review: Gertrude and Alice - Mar '16
- Review: Line In Sand - Mar '16
- Review: Boeing Boeing - Feb '16
- Review: Salt-Water Moon - Feb '16
- Review: Contempt - Feb '16
- Review: Anything Goes - Feb '16
- Review: Mustard - Feb '16
- Review: Into The Woods - Jan '16
- Review: Heart Of Steal - Jan '16
- Review: Toruk - Jan '16
- Review: The Gay Heritage Project - Jan '16
- Review: Elizabeth - Darcy - Dec '15
- Review: Peter Pan in Wonderland - Dec '15
- Review: Cinderella - Dec '15
- Review: Mombay Black - Nov '15
- Review: Paradise Lost - Nov '15
- Review: Wormwood - Nov '15
- Review: Banana Boys - Nov '15
- Review: Legally Blonde - Oct '15
- Review: The Baby - Oct '15
- Review: An Enemy of the People - Oct '15
- Review: They Say He Fell - Oct '15
- Review: Buddy Holly - Oct '15
- Review: Seance - Sep '15
- Review: Like A Generation - Sep '15
- Review: 20th November - Sep '15
- Review: Empire - Sep '15
- Review: Big Plans - Sep '15
- Review: The Marquise of O - Aug '15
- Review: An Evening in July - Aug '15
- Review: Love + Hate - Aug '15
- Review: MacArthur Park Suite - Aug '15
- Review: Obeah - Aug '15
- Review: Mary Poppins - Jul '15
- Review: Julius Caesar... - Jul '15
- Review: Gimme Shelter - Jul '15
- Review: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Jul '15
- Review: Superhero - Jul '15
- Review: Kinki Boots - Jul '15
- Review: First Time Last Time - Jun '15
- Review: The Love Crimes of Frances Lark - Jun '15
- Review: Ballad of the Burning Star - May '15
- Review: Mr Burns - May '15
- Review: Morro and Jasp - May '15
- Review: American Idiot - May '15
- Review: Liver - May '15
- Review: Sweeney Todd - May '15
- Review: Tom at the Farm - Apr '15
- Review: Ubu and the Truth Commission - Apr '15
- Review: HairSpray - Apr '15
- Nature of the Beast purrs and bites - Mar '15
- Review: The Daisy Theatre - Mar '15
- Review: Dinner with Casey - Mar '15
- Review: Cake and Dirt - Mar '15
- Review: Faulty Towers - Mar '15
- Review: Brain Food - Mar '15
- Cake and Dirt - Mar '15
- This is for You, Anna - Mar '15
- Cannibal - Feb '15
- Spring Awakening is on the verge of blossoming - Feb '15
- Jesus Christ Superstar / Heart House - Jan '15
- Waiting Room - Jan '15
- Review: Jesus Christ Superstar - Dec '14
- Sharron and George’s Christmas Sing-A-Long - Dec '14
- Jesus Christ Superstar - Dec '14
- Review: A Christmas Carol - Dec '14
- Review: Cinderella - Nov '14
- Review: Metropolitan Operas - Nov '14
- Review: Sextet - Nov '14
- Review: Opus - Nov '14
- Review: Take Me Back To Jefferson - Nov '14
- Review: Evil Dead - Nov '14
- Review: The Art of Building a Bunker - Oct '14
- Review: Brotherhood - Oct '14
- Review: Femme Playlist - Oct '14
- The Hip Hopera - Oct '14
- Review: The Importance of Being Earnest- Sep '14
- Review: Freda And Jem- Sep '14
- Review: Hedwig- Sep '14
- Hair - Sep '14
- Summerworks - Aug '14
- Queers Bathroom Stories - Jun '14
- SpeakEasy - Jun '14
- Sharron Matthews and Gavin Crawford... - May '14
- Hackerlove & The Mystery of Edwin Drood - May '14
- Review: Headwig - May '14
- Headwig - Apr '14
- Review: Sound Of Music - Apr '14
- Review: Cock - Apr '14
- Review: 50 Shades - Apr '14
- Review: Me Talking to Myself...- Mar '14
- Review: Elegies - Mar '14
- Review: Marry Me a Little - Mar '14
- Review: Goodnight Desdemona... - Mar '14
- Review: A Beautiful View - Mar '14
- Review: Same Same but Different - Feb '14
- Review: Shrew - Feb '14
- Review: Genesis & Other - Feb '14
- Firebrand: When history burns - Feb '14
- Review: Heartbeat of Home - Feb '14
- Review: Cabaret - Feb '14
- Review: London Road - Jan '14
- Review: Once Upon This Island - Jan '14
- Review: The Way Back to Thursday - Jan '14
- Review: Manon, Sandra... - Jan '14
- Wedding Singer - Jan '14
- Manon, Sandra and the Virgin Mary - Jan '14
- Little Shop of Horrors - Dec '13
- Fear of commitment, but... - Dec '13
- A big splash of holiday cheer - Nov '13
- Needles And Opium - Nov '13
- Gay Heritage Project - Nov '13
- There Is No Lock... - Nov '13
- Sensual thrills in the dark - Nov '13
- No safe word - Nov '13
- Demoniacally delightful song and dance and gore - Nov '13
- Vampires, Judaism and wicked fun with grief - Oct '13
- We all love Lucy - Oct '13
- Freak Flags Conquer - Oct '13
- A Visitation from Aphrodite - Oct '13
- A Comic Tail of Staggering Genius - Sep '13
- We're All Pigs - Sep '13
- Abnormally intimate - Sep '13
- Men Behind Bars - Sep '13
- Lighting up the dark - Aug '13
- Double duty, a foursome and puppets - Aug '13
- Upton Abbey - Aug '13
- Sunny with 100 chance of puppets - Jul '13
- Review: Macbeth at Shakespeare in High Park - Jul '13
- Review: Class Dismissed - Jul '13
- Review: Avenue Q - Jul '13
- Review: Cats - Jun '13
- Review: Happiness returns - May '13
- Review: The Bone House - May '13
- Review: Of a Monstrous Child - May '13
- Stopheart - May '13
- Of a Monstrous Child - Apr '13
- Race - Mar '13
- Dancing With Rage - Mar '13
- Romeo and Juliet - Feb '13
- 35th RHUBARB & Japanese high-tech theatre - Jan '13
- Wizard Of Oz - Dec '12
- Tchaikovsky Spectacular - Nov '12
- La Cage Aux Folles - Oct '12
- Pilitical Mother - Sep '12
- Midsummer Night's Dream - Aug '12
- Fringe Festival - Jul '12
- Festival For Community - Jun '12
- Cavalia Odysseo - May '12
- Amy & Freddy - May '12
- The Game of Love and Chance - Apr '12
- My Granny The GoldFish - Mar '12
- Zeo Hour - Mar '12
- 33rd Rhubarb Festival - Feb '12
- Cabaret - Jan '12
- American Idiot - Jan '12
- The Nutcracker - Dec '11
- Mary Poppins - Nov '11
- Romeo And Juliet - Nov '11
- The Normal Heart - Oct '11
- Another Africa - Sep '11
- Singing Strong & The Maids - Aug '11
- The Glass Menagerie - Jul '11
- Operation Impervious - Jul '11
- Toronto Jazz Festival - Jun '11
- TRIGGER Festival - Jun '11
- Jesus Christ Superstar - Jun '11
- TIGTROPHE - May '11
- AGOKWE - Apr '11
- The Best Man - Mar '11
- SPIN - Mar '11
- Billy Elliot - Jan '11