Halloween just wouldn't be complete without a theatrical murder or two in town, and the Boise Little Theater, under the superb direction of Kevin Kimsey, steps up to the plate with what turned out to be just the right amount of mayhem, mystery and madness.
With a play entitled Murderer, you think you know what to expect, but with playwright Anthony Shaffer, the author of the twisty comic horror hit Sleuth, you never can be quite sure of anything.
In Murderer--set in a cottage in a small village in the English countryside--the unique opening scene is presented without a word being spoken, and depicts a murder and a dismemberment done in silhouette in a bathtub, accompanied by eerie music that sets your teeth on edge. Jeff Thomson portrays Norman Bartholomew with cool calculation and an evil smile. He is a man with secrets and strange ambitions, and Thomson sucks us into his "alien" world and his warped mind with subtle skill.
The main problem with the grisly scene is its length. It takes so long that Norman takes a break to make a sandwich, which he eats while getting back to his nasty work. After the first shock of horror wears off, and Thomson continues sawing and chopping to get the body in disposable pieces, you know he is not really slicing up lovely Becky Lee Jaynes, who plays his girlfriend, Millie ("Is she really dead?" being a question central to the play.) She's too talented an actress to end up in a plastic bag in the first scene. But the difficult action is brilliantly staged and directed.
The show's next shock comes with the arrival of the police, called by a neighbor who saw enough through a window to be alarmed. The always slick-acting Melvin Spelvin portrays Sergeant Stenning, a friendly but suspicious British bobby. Stenning, horrified by Norman's tale of his obsession with famous murderers, makes a strange discovery. The plot begins its twisting path, but never quite fulfills the promise of the play's beginning.
Anne Hamilton is the personification of a cold, nagging wife, tart tongued, businesslike, wearing sensible shoes, plain glasses and an authoritative manner. Hamilton makes the wife, Elizabeth, exasperated with her husband's stupid games, but with a crafty side of her own. She's a smart cookie with an active imagination, and turns into quite a detective as she analyzes the situation--much faster than the bumbling bobby.
The perky girlfriend, who seems to meet such a sad ending, is given a lively and cheeky character by Jaynes. She is especially sexy in her skimpy black underwear and makes her first and fatal mistake when she goes along with Norman's criminal plans.
Kudos to Kimsey for tackling this unusual and hard-to-stage show, and to his sensational set, which he designed and built, with two levels, plus a basement. This production of Murderer adds a real trick, treat and evil element to Halloween 2006.
By Anthony Shaffer, directed for BLT by Kevin R. Kimsey. Playing at 7:30 p.m. tonight; 8 p.m. Fri., Sat. and Nov. 2-4; 2 p.m. Sun., Nov. 1. $11; $9 seniors, students and all seats tonight. Boise Little Theater, 100 E. Fort St. For reservations, call 342-5104 or visit www.boiselittletheater.org.