Monsters are often menacing figures that hide under children’s beds, but as character Annie Brooks says in the play “Art of Murder," “there’s a monster in all of us.”
This monstrous theme holds true throughout the entirety of the murder mystery production, which is now playing at the Columbia Entertainment Company. The comedic plot follows eccentric artist Jack Brooks (Adam McCall) in his quest to kill his art dealer Vincent (Brennan Holtzclaw). However, the villain within each character surfaces, as sub murder plots emerge from Jack’s wife Annie (Caitlin Cunningham) and housekeeper Kate (Katie Hays) to make for an unpredictable series of events.
Much focus is drawn to each actor’s individual performance in a cast with just four characters. McCall appears to have fully explored the dynamics of Jack’s personality, so much so that the violent outbursts Jack has are simultaneously startling and fascinating. McCall’s commanding stage presence as Jack is only diminished by his distracting costume, which consists solely of a Speedo bathing suit and Hugh-Hefner style bathrobe.
As Annie Brooks, Cunningham has an expert understanding of her character and makes Annie’s strained relationship with Jack realistically painful and relatable in her portrayal.
As the conniving art dealer Vincent, Holtzclaw took a while to grow into his character and was often not forceful or dynamic enough. Hays’s stage time as Kate was minimal, but her Irish accent was spot-on and memorable even after the curtain closed.
Director Eric Seeley demonstrated a thorough understanding of the script in his directorial debut, as the surprising plot was made intriguing and captivating by the staging. The four actors appeared well directed in making full use of the set and of their bodies to emphasize comedic lines.
CEC’s portrayal of “Art of Murder” is full of laughs and simultaneously explores the monsters that lie within human beings.