It’s the Most Wonderful … Crime of the Year

Have you ever been so lonely you’d kill for a companion? Then you’re in good – or perhaps not-so-good – company at Murderers Confess at Christmastime, which plays at the Roxy Theatre until May 18.

At its heart, Murderers Confess at Christmastime is about seven lonely people at a time when society dictates that you should be with friends and family. Along the way, it also explores themes of power relationships, what happens when one goes against the role that has been assigned to them by a larger society, and what effect technology has on our relationships with others.

What shone most in this play was the character development. Playwright Jason Chinn’s characters are so well-written that I could visualize how the characters came to be in their current situations and so was able to identify with the characters and what was driving them. That’s not to say the characters are simple – in fact, they’re incredibly complex, which makes them all the more real. As Director Garett Spelliscy promised when we spoke before the show, you really don’t know what to expect from them. Throughout the course of the show, my guesses about who was the murderer and who was the victim in each scene were constantly evolving, even up to the last moments of the play.

Murderers Confess at Christmastime is billed as a black comedy, and amongst all the seriousness of the show’s themes, the moments of humour do shine through – mostly brought on when they take the audience by surprise. The audience laughs because we can’t believe it’s happening, but once we’ve reflected on it (and because Jason Chinn’s characters are so real) we see the truth behind the comical situation.

All the actors were wonderful in this production. The strong writing helps, but the audience can tell when an actor really commits to their character – and all actors in this production did that. In a show with such high-caliber talent, it’s hard to single out any stand out moments, but I especially enjoyed Laura Raboud’s portrayal of Luba – a loud, outspoken, twice divorced woman. It would have been easy for Laura to play her abrasive character as very one-dimensional by not allowing us to see past her tough exterior. Laura’s use of a wide range of tones in her speech, while still remaining gruff, allowed us insight into her character while laughing at what she says.

When I spoke with Garett before the show, he said Paul Morgan Donald, who plays a man who has used a wheelchair for most of his life, had done a lot of research on using a wheelchair and the experience of being in one. This research certainly came out in Paul’s portrayal of Elliot. To be honest, I don’t know much about the experience of being in a wheelchair, but Paul seemed completely at home and comfortable in his wheelchair, which says a lot when the rehearsal process is only a few weeks long.

A final word of admiration about Amy Keating’s performance as the Woman – the kidnapper’s victim. With being on stage the entire show (tied up for most of it), I was particularly impressed with how the scenes involving her and Cole, the kidnapper, (played by Cole Humphrey) transitioned to the other scenes in the show. I loved watching the way these two actors began and ended their scenes before the lights had come up on their part of the set, with their actions performed at half-speed almost as though the scene was being brought into focus by an invisible camera.

If I had to pick an area I wanted more out of, it would be the set. A few more Christmas accents would have made the show feel a lot more specific to the time of year it’s set in, especially as the audience filters into the theatre and settles in for the show. The lack of Christmas decorations or accents – despite the backdrop being a snowy city wonderland – made it easy throughout the show to forget when it is taking place, but at the same time, the setting is an important factor in building to the themes the show explores.

Murderers at Christmastime runs at the Roxy Theatre until May 18. Tickets are $20 and can be bought from Theatre Network.

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