A Little Too Unusual

The Unusual Suspects is a murder mystery musical comedy about a group of clinically insane people having a party at a remote mansion. When one of their own is brutally killed, it’s up to two police investigators to discover who’s the culprit, if they can get past each guest’s wacky neuroses. The partygoers include an egomaniacal kleptomaniac, a sexy amnesiac, an irascible blind man, a mute piano player, a drag queen who doesn’t know he’s a man, and said drag queen’s gloved arm, which has a mind and voice of its own. The show tries to make itself as outlandish as possible, often to the point where it doesn’t make much sense. The story isn’t nearly as enjoyable as it should be. Rather than forming genuinely amusing situations and letting his characters play, writer Derek Sonderfan consistently distrusts his creations, piling on non sequitur after non sequitur until things become unfunny.

Then there’s the uncomfortable problem of the musical numbers. An energetic cast full of personality sings well throughout the show. Bryan Fenkart stands out as the ladies man of the party, and gets a great number called “Save the Monkeys” about halfway through. But the show doesn’t feel like a musical. When the first song happens some ten minutes in, it comes by surprise. The music isn’t memorable enough to warrant a full score. The sung sequences are not integral enough to the storyline. They’re more like amusing novelty bits stuck in for comic effect.

The show doesn’t even list its songs in the program. Also missing from the program is the fight choreographer. Whoever was behind what was surely one of the most awesome fights in Fringe Festival history deserves a shout out. Where’s the recognition? At least Jessica Parks gets credit for her scene design, which includes inflatable furniture.

The Unusual Suspects also takes far too long to end. There’s an intermission that isn’t particularly needed, and a title closing number at the end that feels tacked on. The Rashomon-like recounting of what happened from each character’s perspective becomes repetitive. Problems aside, the show is a lot of fun. It’s just a shame that the acting and creating talent wasn’t focused on a piece trying so hard to be quirky that it collapses in on itself.

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