Two guys and a piano is one of those show-biz basics that everyone can relax and enjoy without fear of good intentions. Check it out. Use YouTube© to find Jimmy Durante and Eddie Jackson. Or Flanders and Swann. Priceless stuff.
To this list now add Joe Kinosian and Ian Lowe, whose show Murder For Two is presently rocketing about the Old Globe stage.
It’s less an act or a revue and more a whole little gimmick musical comedy, carefully crafted by Kinosian and his writing partner, Kellen Blair, but accessible readily to any pair of limber young clowns with the energy and talent to keep the ball they’re having up in the air for 90 non-stop minutes.
You really don’t want to get too complicated for whipped cream like this. The plot is a sturdy stereotype – Somebody in the room murdered the old man, but who? – and the characters are variations on the usual suspects. The stubby, earnest Lowe plays the apprentice cop who’ll get a promotion if he solves the crime before the regular detective arrives and the lanky, prancing Kinosian plays everybody else.
The show’s key line is, “If it weren’t for you, I’d just be thinking all these things.” Instead, everything gets put into words. And music. Kinosian plays the baby grand for Lowe’s opening number, an extended celebration of the “Protocol” necessary in cop work, and they switch places for Kinosian’s extended introduction of those with motives.
It’s as if there were a trunk filled with scraps of Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen and our guys snatched up a few: the victim’s odd wife, his mistress the ballerina, one-third of a 12-voice boys choir, the dead man’s shrink. There’s also talk of bananas, traditionally the funniest of fruits.
Wendy Seyb has arranged for some antic choreography, especially so with Kinosian’s vampy ballerina. Beowulf Boritt’s scenery is atmospheric in the portentous lighting design of Jason Lyons, who has a proscenium border of fairy lights that behave like a separate supporting character.
I’m not sure about the exact nature of music director David Caldwell’s contribution, since pianists who can roll over their partner’s back without missing a note are probably more born than made, so I’ll just honor him with credit for the general sheen of Chico Marx pianology in the show. (Another YouTube referral.)
I’m trying to think if director Scott Schwartz left out any innuendo or missed any beat in probing the possibilities and it’s possible he hasn’t. I did not care for the canned soundtrack introduced for one of the numbers but that’s because, by then, I’d been spoiled by the purity of the enterprise: two guys, one piano, a few props and a world of comedy heritage.
Continuing on the Old Globe stage at 7 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays; at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; and at 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through March 1, 2015. For ticket information, call (619) 234-562