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Rehearsal…for murder

Rehearsal…for murder
May 02
11:29 2019

Based on a television movie by the same name, and written by Richard Levinson, this thriller was enacted as a play by Rungmuch company, in association with ICC at Cubberly theater in April. Murder mysteries tend to fully engage the audience, and this unique whodunitwas no exception with its unexpected twists and turns.

Directed by Madhav Karhade, the action is set on an empty stage where playwright Alex Dennison (Sunny Moza) retells the story of a previous play where his movie star fiancée, Monica Welles, dies in an apparent suicide, which he believes to be a murder. Unbeknownst to the actors, this is an elaborate set-up to reveal the identity of the culprit.

The five-person cast gathered at the one year anniversary of Monica’s death, at Dennison’s behest, under the pretext of a play reading. As the reading progresses, his true intentions become evident, and each member relives the moments before Monica’s death to become the new suspect. After convincing the audience of each member’s guilt, the suspicion moves on to the next member in a bewildering array of possibilities, reminiscent of a Hercule Poirot plot.

Of course, all the characters had motive: the producer’s concern with the bottomline maybe through insurance fraud; the second fiddle role yearning for stardom and conspiring with her costar husband to concoct a tainteddrink; the debonair leading man’s attempt at “cozy” scenes gone wrong. It was also possible that Monica could have jumped off the building after receiving mixed reviews by the critics on her performance. At times, you wonder whether Alex dreams up the whole premise!

Clues for the attentive audience may have been suggested by dialogues, such as when Alex informs the assembled group about how a mystery takes the audience by the hand and leads them astray, betrays them after building their trust…only to achieve a surprise! The actors too are thrown off balance with the introduction of a surprise character.

When it seemed like there was a lot of sitting around by the characters on stage while one was being built up as the murder suspect, immediately the twist careens the action on the next guilty person taking a different direction. Scenes with total darkness with a drawn gun offer a change of pace when on-stage set up seems overly one dimensional.

The suspenseful revelation contains so many surprises thatduring the intermission, the audience could be heard chatting about nothing else and kept on guessing till the unexpected end.
All characters were superbly cast and pull their own weight while appearing really comfortable in their roles, especially Namita Vakil in her acting debut, playing a stellar Bella Lamb, the chic producer!

Roshni Dutta displays her acting chops as the coquettish Monica and flirts her way through scenes; while Tannistha Mukherjee and Nalin Gupta are adorably flustered and contemptible of each other as the husband and wife duo, Karen and Leo.

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