CORSPE! Delivers Deadly Thrills, Kills, and Chills
Fun with Farce at Cape Playhouse
By Libby Hughes, Cape Cod Today's Theatre Critic
The summer light of August is winding down and so is the 81st season of the Cape Playhouse in Dennis. Comedy thriller "CORPSE!" is number five of the six scheduled shows. Where did the time go? Even though a shower slowed down the patrons' arrival, they were there in full force on opening night.
British playwright Gerald Moon is something of a phantom. Except for "Corpse!" his plays are few and his biography is illusive-even on Google. He is as mysterious as his play. Maybe it's a pseudonym. We do know that his main profession was that of an actor. We do know that "Corpse!" opened at the Apollo Theatre in London, the place where his play was first produced in 1984. He may not be Agatha Christie or Alan Ayckborn or Moliere, but his play is highly entertaining. On right: (l to r) Brent Harris and Brad Bellamy. Photo by Kathleen Fahle.
Don't spoil the 1936 plot
The plot can be described only partially in order not to ruin the surprises--you'll be reeling in the second act. Suffice it to say that twin brothers are mired in sibling rivalry and revelry. One bro wants to destroy the other bro for mercenary reasons. Although the show started in a sluggish way, it was planting seeds for the audience to guess who was who and what was what. Once it was rolling, the fun and guesswork kept growing. However, the ending was so abrupt, the audience wasn't sure the show was over, and they obviously wanted more. The bodies kept appearing and disappearing--all part of the hilarity.
Let the set designer take a bow
Set designer, Richard Chambers, should take a bow. The two sets that revolve and change attest to his creative professionalism. Chambers sharply contrasts a Soho flat of exposed brick and stone with a swish townhouse, tailored for the upper-class in jolly old London.
Coup d'etat for playing twins
The biggest coup of the show is Brent Harris's acting prowess in playing a duo role as the twin brothers. Though the differences are subtle, they are distinctive. Brother Evelyn (a British male name pronounced EEEE-velyn) is a camp actor while twin Rupert is a suave, successful businessman. The bitterness they feel for each other comes across loud and clear. Most American actors have difficulty with an English accent because of the different inflection pattern. They can sound like they have molasses in their mouths. We saw Harris last summer in "The Beard of Avon" and his dialect skills are seasoned. Harris also chops and cooks on stage, which is an undeniable achievement.
Problems with English accents
Sadly, Suzanna Hay (Mrs. McGee) and Michael Rossmy's Inspector Hawkins (to a lesser degree) were handicapped by the accent, making the audience struggle to understand her words. She lost a great deal of laughter for her lines because of it. In contrast, Brad Bellamy broadened his "a's" and gave a slight British flavor to the accent for Major Powell, making him easy to understand. His performance was fine-tuned, believable, and amusing throughout.
Director Russell Treyz deserves enormous credit for clever stage business, surrounding disposal of bodies and hints of bodies--here, there, and everywhere. Some clues are obvious and some are not. He staged a fine, tantalizing farce for our amusement and delight. Lisa Zinni caught the British feeling in her costumes; particularly the policeman.
Thriller suggested by Cape patron
If it weren't for longtime Cape patron, John Carey--inventor of the Cape Cod bracelet, we wouldn't have a thriller this summer. He made the suggestion to artistic director Evans Haile, who followed his advice and voila--"Corpse!"
Race to the box office for this frothy, frazzled farce August 13-25 Monday through Saturday at 8:00pm. Matinees: Wednesday at 2:00pm, Saturday 8/18 at 4:00pm, Thursday 8/23 at 2:00pm. The Cape Playhouse in Dennis on Route 6A. 508-385-3911.
Above photo: (l to r) Brent Harris and Brad Bellamy. Photo by Kathleen Fahle.