KVG Studios, Orlando • Running through mid-May
Take a cast of interesting to sleazy characters. Kill one of them creatively. Electrocution? Overdose? Snake bite? Then vote to decide whodunnit. Is it Tabloid TV or Channel 9 news? No — it’s an Improvisational Murder Mystery! Gumshoe Diaries involves the audience not only as passive viewers, but as a source for random plot points. The play begins with an introduction of the cast, all equally likely to kill or be killed. An audience member selects the victim, and a few other improv biscuits are tossed off (Name a disease. Foot Corns? Noooo Problem..), beginning the action. As the play proceeds, the actors invent the dialog, motives, and resolution of the play. In the end, the audience votes for the murderer. Now, isn’t that more satisfying than watching Johnny Cochran?
The play is stocked at the beginning with more characters than can really fit into the time and plot allowed — sort of like a fish farm at the start of Memorial Day weekend. Part of the fun is watching the weak and unfit kill themselves off in the second act, leaving just enough suspects with just enough opportunity and motivation to make the prepackaged death decidable. The audience grills the players at the end, and sends one weirdo to the improv pen. It’s all great fun. If you don’t like how it turned out, come back tomorrow. Someone else will die.
The cast has some accomplished improv artists, and some who will keep their day jobs. The star of the performance was Jim Accomando in the role of the techno record producer Heimlich Manover. This mincing Teuton always seemed on the verge of saying “und now ve dahnce.” Other standouts were Raymond Victorio as baitmeister “Red” and Suzette Jamison as floozy “Candy Apple.” The entire cast kept this structurally fluid piece moving, and kept the intimate crowd firmly stapled to the action.