In A Murder Most Fowl, a birder murder sets off a zany investigation filled to the brim with smoking guns and bird puns. The Committee for Creative Enactments’ (CCE) latest murder mystery concerns a rowdy cohort of ornithologists—bird scientists, for those out of the loop—and the fast-talking detectives tasked with investigating them after Clarence Fillmore (Ben Blumenstock, MCAS ’19), set to receive a lifetime achievement award at the show’s start, is fatally poisoned. Hilarity abounds, as the mystery unspools in the show directed by Colleen Doyle and written by Ben Blumenstock and Hank Camacho (all MCAS ’19).
“This isn’t Casablanca,” says one character, yet much of the show feels like a riff on hard-boiled noirs and mysteries of old. The trio of sleuths at the center, Detective Alice Rhubarb (Sam Kramer, MCAS ’20); Detective Davis Wells (Christian Moro, MCAS ’19); and Lieutenant Ross (Gerry Menna, MCAS ’20) snoop around for the killer while doling out one-liners in trench coats and fedoras—except Ross, who hilariously and inexplicably wears a cowboy hat and speaks in a southern drawl. Most characters in the production speak with a florid vocabulary, and even those deliberately dimwitted, like Wells, speak in an assertive, fast-talking manner like the rest, even if what he’s saying is usually moronic. Attention has even been given to the character names, like Sue Sanderson (Cassie Dineen, MCAS ’19) and Archibald Winters (David Schector, MCAS ’19), which feel ripped from the pages of an old mystery.
A Murder Most Fowl plays with these tropes, while still giving each and every character a unique and memorable personality. The prime suspect for the murder, Percy Jones (Firebird LaRocca, CSOM ’22), is a quintessentially pretentious, patterned-sweater wearing academic type prone to breaking out into monologue and evil laughter. He’s also been plagiarizing his work for years. His shady lawyer (Sam Frechette, MCAS ’22), another suspect, never appears on stage without his sunglasses and a conspicuous, powdery substance on his upper lip. A group of ornithologists, including Winters, Faye Bergman (Emma MacKinnon, MCAS ’20), and Parker Rizzo (Will Hespe, MCAS ’22) act as the Greek chorus, commenting on the drama in between making jokes about hotboxing the aviary.
From beginning to end, the show is a treat. The quick-witted dialogue keeps conversations interesting throughout, and the script makes use of a number of recurring jokes that make for more and more laughter as the show goes on.
The CCE even finds humor in between scenes, using a number of bird-themed songs (i.e. The Beatles’ “Blackbird” and Nelly Furtado’s “I’m Like a Bird”) as transition music. As expected, there are a number of surprise twists and turns along the way, including one surreal sequence where Ross, after a couple of drinks, gets a pep talk from the physical incarnation of Lady Justice (Mark Schmitt, MCAS ’22). As delirious as things get, however, A Murder Most Fowl soars because of its characters and the strong performances bringing them to life.
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor