Friday, 1 May 2009

Murder By Chocolate, April 1, 2009 **1/2

Murder By Chocolate 
By Phil Ormsby & Alex Ellis
La Mama, Carlton until April 1 to 12, 2009
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ** 1/2

There is enough chocolate devoured during Murder By Chocolate to give the entire audience a migraine. During the 80 minute show, Phil Ormsby and Alex Ellis gorge on the dark and the milky, hand-made chocky titbits and rich cakes. How will they survive the nightly caffeine and sugar overdose?

The play, written and performed by the pair from New Zealand, is a comedy murder mystery. Ellis plays acclaimed romantic fiction writer and chocolate addict, Felicia Fargo, who writes under the pseudonym of Dorothy Doyle. She changes literary genres by writing a murder mystery under her real name, but her fictional murder comes true when her grumpy, wheezing, old publisher is murdered with a frozen stick of chocolate. Of course, Felicia is the prime suspect.

The primary vehicle for the comedy is a parade of wacky characters, all played by Ormsby. Dorian is Felicia’s camp and acerbic research assistant and her amateur chocolate addiction counsellor. Margot Fargo is Felicia’s brassy, rude mother who is a celebrity dessert chef and the cause of Felicia’s choco-addiction.

Ormsby also plays Fesley, the grotesque, asthmatic publisher with a secret attachment to Felicia, and Detective Inspector Constable, the aspiring writer and hapless policeman. He performs one really hilarious scene in which he switches rapidly between Madam Mulvania, the blousy TV psychic, and her entourage of spirit guides.

The script has an arch and old-fashioned style that works in part and the acting is sometimes rather tense and awkward and there is a very out of place musical number in the middle.

 Felicia’s crazy chocolate obsession provides some slapstick that involves plenty of rough and tumble as she claws her way over furniture and bodies to get to her chocky treats. The audience enjoyed bodies disappearing mysteriously and were perversely entertained by the actors stuffing chocolates into their mouths.

Murder By Chocolate is certainly a fun idea for a comedy murder mystery.

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