By Edward Kliszus
Pianist Peter Dizzoza musically greeted incoming patrons assembling for Who Murdered Love with songs from the roaring 20s, and West skillfully accompanied the evening’s stage frolics.
Who Murdered Love was a musical comedy extraordinaire At the Theater for the New City. The scene for fun was set as DaDa Love (Elyp Johnson), and the cast sang Mad for Love. This setting projected a mysterious pallor tempered by the comedic references to DaDaism, which had emerged in the early 20th century in reaction to the Great War. We were set to embrace chaos, satire, parody, collage, and streams of consciousness. We were not disappointed.
The play opened in 1924 in New York City at the office of hard-boiled private detective Sam Speed (John David West) with his frisky, adorable sidekick Gail Friday (Rori Nogee). The cantankerous Speed was recovering from a drinking binge and grumbling about his time during The Great War. Speed was to later quote from Wilfred Owen’s poem Anthem for Doomed Youth.
Moments later, the gorgeous, coquettish Honey Potts (Alisa Ermolaev) arrived to hire Speed to find DaDa Love. Speed tells Friday to send Potts away as witty banter and laughs evolve. Friday cajoled Speed into composing himself, meeting Potts, and getting some work. After all, Speed hadn’t paid Friday in weeks and was beset by his landlord for rent nonpayment. When Speed saw Potts, her talents, and her bankroll, his reticence became a broad smile.
References to Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade, the protagonist of Maltese Falcon and Humphrey Bogart fame, immediately evoked chuckles and ahas. Speed couldn’t figure out if Potts was missing her DaDa or sugar DaDa, but it helped to hear her perform My Heart Belongs to DaDa.
So began our playful film noir sojourn into Judy Holliday caricatures, flappers, Freudian slips, and hypnotism. We marveled at absinth-fueled psychedelics, surreal antics, hilarity, charming music, dance numbers, romance, and cleverly crafted Parisian dreamscapes generated by Honey Potts’ DaDaist imagination—the cast exclaimed, “we need to wake her up and get real!” Lighting, music and great songs, costumes, dancing, and blocking were creatively managed with vision, imagination, and aplomb. Surrealism finally conquered DaDa.
Who Murdered Love was a delight from start to finish. You’ll smile, laugh, and revel in the hilarity, music, and action.
The Theater for the New City continues to present engaging, fun, challenging, meaningful, and evocative productions. Their educational outreach programs for children are marvelous and a jewel of New York City. Who Murdered Love runs through February 19. Be sure to check out their site for coming events,
Runtime is 120 minutes plus intermission.
Cast (Alphabetical Order)
Louisa Bradshaw as The Countess Analise William Broderick as Surrealist artist André Ranton Sage Buchalter as Ensemble and Dance Captain Jef Canter as Dadaist artist Darcel Du Camp Alisa Ermolaev as beautiful, wily heiress Honey Potts Ejyp Johnson as DaDa Love, the Dadaist artist, and demi-god Rori Nogee as Gail Friday Amy Catherine Welch as Blossom, an artist’s model, and muse John David West as Sleepy Sam Speed Chase Wolfe as young detective Everett Greene.
Book by Lissa Moira and Richard West Music by Richard West Lyrics by Lissa Moira Musical Director Peter Dizzoza. Choreographer Olivia Palacios Set design by Mark Marcante Set decoration, special props, and costume design by Lytza Colon Lighting design by Alexander Bartenieff Stage Manager is Lafayette Elizabeth Orsack
Theater for the New City 155 1st Avenue New York NY 10003 Box office (212) 254-1109