March 21 2012 12:00 AM

'Marsha,' Starlight Dinner Theatre’s frantic parody of mysteries, could have used some script slashing


Although Starlight Dinner Theatre serves their meal before the performance, sitting through the murder mystery parody "Let's Murder Marsha" feels like enjoying a delicious multi-course meal with excessively slow service. By the time dessert arrives, you're ready for the check.

Like the courses themselves, the ridiculous gags and punchlines throughout hit their mark courtesy of director Susan Chmurynsky and her overall first-rate cast. But even a murder mystery parody relies on a familiar formula and Jack Sharkey´s overly padded script takes too long to get to the point. 

The premise is simple enough. Marsha (Sarah Sonnenberg) overhears her husband, Tobias (Bob Purosky), and business acquaintance, Persis (Michele Booher), planning her surprise birthday present: a new seaplane. However, never actually hearing the word “seaplane” and fueled by paranoia from reading the murder mystery “The Creeping Slasher,” she mistakenly infers that the two are conspiring to murder her. Thus Marsha employs the help of her maid, Bianca (Angela Dill), and her neighbor, Virgil (Bob Murrell), to plan to kill Tobias and Persis before they can kill her first.

Seemingly aware of her responsibility to drive the show along, Sonnenberg starts in high gear like a 1940s radio actress on speed. Somehow she maintains her manic energy level until the end without ever appearing winded.

Taking the necessary beats to deliver some of the show´s driest quips, Purosky clearly understands his role as the perceived villain with misunderstood intentions. His enthusiastic but gruesomely misinterpreted descriptions of surprising his wife and blessing the plane on its maiden voyage provide the biggest laughs. 

Murrell´s signature squirmy physicality provides some great slapstick moments in the second half while Booher´s steely gaze gives Marsha plenty of evidence to insinuate an affair with her husband. Jason Carlen and Carol Ferris enter in Act II as Officer Ben and Marsha´s mother Lynette (respectively) to further complicate the paper-thin plot with potentially lethal results.

Still, Dill often steals the show as the nosy, martini-swilling maid. An impressively versatile character actress, Dill knows how to ornament and accent particular moments for full comic effect to maximize her stage time without overplaying the part.

Still, despite the best combined efforts of the entire cast and crew, “Let´s Murder Marsha” feels at least 30 minutes too long.  

‘Let’s Murder Marsha’

Starlight Dinner Theatre

Through March 24

Waverly East Intermediate School

3131 W. Michigan Ave., Lansing

Dinner at 6:30 p.m. (reservations required 48 hours in advance); show at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

$33 show and dinner; $28 seniors and students; $20 children 12 and under

$15 show only; $10 children 12 and under, show only

(517) 243-6040