It’s utterly frightening how guilty one can make an innocent man look if one truly tries. But what if the innocent man isn’t so innocent? Or what if he’s guilty and innocent at the same time? Will you be able to keep up with the mayhem and calamity that unfolds in the madcap comedic thriller, The Gazebo on the cabaret stage at Cockpit in Court this summer? Only one way to find out! Directed by Linda Chambers, marvelously maddening mystery play by Alex Coppel is just left of center when it comes to your run-of-the-mill murder shows. With delightful bits of humor threaded loosely throughout, the twists and turns will keep you guessing straight through the end as a variety of highly intriguing if not all together entertaining characters come in and out of play.
With a stylish and posh interior, Scenic Designer Moe Conn makes it almost difficult to recognize that the production is taking place in the early 60’s. A great deal of the accent décor smacks of modern times, with the glossy glass vases in post-modern aquamarine and the swirling metal wall sconces. The furnishings themselves hold more of a dated look and one certainly can’t blame Conn for his refined taste when it comes to the overall aesthetic of the Nash home. Doubling as the show’s Lighting Designer, Conn has a natural flare for illumination in all the right places, particularly when it comes to the darkened scenes where curious things go bump and bang.
Costume Designer Eva Grove takes a much more direct approach to giving the production roots in the 60’s. While the men have basic suits it’s the fashionable styles Grove presents on Nell Nash that really lets the play settle into that early 60’s era feel. The vibrant colors and patterns with matching headbands do a world of wonder for reminding the audience exactly when and where the audience is meant to take place, in addition to crafting a chic sense of style for the lady of the house. Sound Designer Jim Lefter deserves a nod as well, for although there isn’t a great deal of sound effects utilized specifically during the performance, his inter-scene musical covers provide a rich aural palette to express shifts in mood while distracting audiences from the inevitable scenic shifts (provided largely to cover ‘quick’ costume changes unseen offstage.)
As the show’s Director Linda Chambers can do little wrong in regards to pacing or overall momentum. A slight hiccup here and there with the show’s principal performer paying Elliott, though nothing that his co-stars don’t cover with flawless aplomb, and Chambers finds herself with a well-oiled production that zips along without ever wallowing in the mire of the slightly dated plotline. Chambers’ guidance when it comes to subtle accent inflection is much appreciated, particularly when it comes to character overlap and double casting.
Scene Stealing Christopher D. Cahill, who appears first as the Brooklyn bumpkin Charlie Thorpe and later as the jolly good English chap ‘The Dook’ is a hoot every time he takes the stage. Whether it’s his quirky mispronunciation of the show’s title as Thorpe, or his foppish yet highly unctuous mannerisms as The Dook, all eyes and ears are on Cahill regardless of what else is happening in the scene. Worthy of commending for his striking versatility between the two cameo characters, Cahill is a crowd pleaser despite the limited amount of stage time his two characters are given. A nod is also deserved of Albert J. Boeren who plays Detective Jenkins, appearing only as the show wraps a conclusion. Boeren may only have a few lines in his brief scene, but his apoplectic outbursts are more than memorable. The same can be said for Anna Steuerman, playing the maid Matilda. Though only briefly encountered, her off-handed snipes and initial shriek (loud enough to wake Not-Dead-Fred from downstairs’ Spamalot) are simply delightful.
Somewhat of a mildly foppish fellow, Harlow Edison (Tom Wyatt) nestles his way right into the thick of the plot line as it unfolds around the Nash household. With a chipper tongue in cheek charm, which juxtaposes quite nicely against his more “officially business” side of the character, Wyatt keeps his portrayal of the lead District Attorney character rather refreshing. Possessed of a 1960’s male charisma, Wyatt falls into the role with ease and makes his scenic interactions, particularly when playing devil’s advocate and questioning the Nash couple over their whereabouts, feel rather convivial and simultaneously engaging.
Elliott Nash (Thom Peters) may have some melodramatic mishaps but it’s clear right from the word go that Nell Nash (Liz Boyer Hunnicutt) rules the roost. Peters, though at times a little slight and sluggish of his textual deliver, more than provides when it comes to heightened animated facial features as well as physical comedic gestures, be it a wringing of the hand or frantic dashing about the living room in full blown panic mode. The whole comedic bit with the telephone— first the onslaught of calls including one from Alfred Hitchcock during Act I scene 2 and then later in the second act when he’s calling every contact in his possession— comes to gloriously hysterical fruition in the hands of Peters, and his exceptionally expressive eyeballs carry a great deal of his spastic nerves to brilliant comedic result.
Hunnicutt carries the show with her seasoned personality that understands the poignancy and relevancy of comedic timing, delivery, and the overall balance between comedy and drama in a hybrid genre play such as this one. Sharp with a razor tongue when needed but equally doting and coddling when such behaviors are required, Hunnicutt is the epitome of balanced in the role of Nell Nash. On her toes, keen of mind, and overall delivering a brilliantly crafted and carefully fabricated portrayal of the 1960’s actress, Hunnicutt is a squeal and scream all rolled into one, particularly when it comes to the shower curtains and the shoes. Remarkably engaging and really moving the show forward one fabulous incident at a time, Hunnicutt keeps the play lively and well worth enjoying.
It’s one crack-up comedy and mysteriously magnificent mystery that you simply won’t want to miss, especially if you like trying to unravel intricate and exceptionally well-wound plots that work their way around murder!
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission
The Gazebo plays through July 31, 2016 2016 at Cockpit in Court— on the cabaret stage upstairs in the Theatre Building of the Community College of Baltimore County Essex Campus located at 7201 Rossville Boulevard in Rosedale, MD. For tickets please call the box office at (443) 840-2787 or purchase them online