note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Beverly Creasey
THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD (at the Boston Center for the Arts through Dec. 15th) is a whodunit based on Charles Dickens’ last, unfinished novel. The characters are his. The rest of the nonsense is Rupert Holmes.’ This ham-humored Holmsian homage has hookahs, harridans, a hackneyed plot and enough heavies to hoist the House of Commons. In a word, it’s just silly. So if it’s silliness you crave this holiday season, SpeakEasy’s production will delight---and since Dickens set the story at Christmas, you can forego the sentimental Tiny Tim saga and still have your fix of Victoriana.
Holmes places the mystery in the dubious hands of an unruly vaudeville company which means that the SpeakEasy actors play music hall actors who are playing the Dickensian characters. And since Dickens had a stroke and died before solving the mystery, these cheeky vaudevillians ask the audience (a la SHEAR MADNESS) to decide who the murderer is. Each actor would love to be chosen because it adds up to more lines and more time in the limelight.
Edwin Drood is a pants role and Leigh Barrett is wonderful playing the primadonna who wants more face time. Her Edwin, I’m sorry to say, is begging to be dispatched for being so disagreeable, not to mention so prejudiced against foreigners. He’d like to dismantle the great pyramids to build a road across the desert--- in the name of progress and colonialism. This, of course, grates on the two émigrés he meets at Christmas dinner at his uncle’s. And his uncle is none too fond of him, either.
Director Paul Daigneault’s cast is delicious. Will McGarrahan is sublime as the master of ceremonies. Michael Mendiola is dangerously dashing in the Jekyl & Hyde role and he and McGarrahan have one of the show’s best numbers, “Both Sides of the Coin.” Kerry A. Dowling is raucous as the sinister Opium Madam. She gets the clever “Wages of Sin” song and a surprise revelation when things start to unravel. Erin Tchoukaleff is pert and plucky as the ingénue engaged to the missing Drood and Dale Place is marvelously strange as the reverend with a most peculiar obsession.
David Krinitt is a standout as the drunken gravedigger and Edward M. Barker gets to tug at our heartstrings with “Never the Luck.” Carly Sakolove and Brendan McNabb are divine as the Ceylonese suspects. The company works awfully hard to entertain us and I must say that although I’m not a droopie (i.e. a DROOD groupie), I did appreciate the effort and the laughs