A Fine Feathered Murder: A Miss Marbled Mystery. Playwright: David Cerda
At: Hell In a Handbag Productions at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division St. Tickets: $29-$65. Runs through: Extended through Aug. 13
If your source material is almost a parody already, it's not hard to shovel in a few middle-school giggles and call it a day, but David Cerda and the Hell In a Handbag ensemble have loftier goals in mind. If you're familiar with the elderly supersleuth of Agatha Christie's iconic series of mystery cozies, you will revel in Cerda's literary savvy and, if you aren't and you're just looking for some bawdy guffaws, you'll find them, too.
Country spinster Miss Marbled (no copyright infractions for the Handbags!) and Vivian Birdsong, her young niece, are en route to the gala at the estate of English poultry magnate, Lord Reginald Fowler. Upon the ladies' arrival, however, the loathsome host proceeds to vilify his much-abused spouse, Lady Violetta Fowler; his much-scorned mother, Dowager Countess Edith Fowler; and his much-neglected son, Charles Fowler. Likewise mistreated are his employeesloyal butler Garson, flinty housekeeper Gerta and farm steward Chickas well as acquaintances such as fidgety Nigel Brewster, high-strung Millicent Lark and stately businesswoman Treasure Abundance, Lord Fowler's American counterpart. When the master of the house is murdered, nobody is surprisedonly curious about the killer with whom they now share the festivities.
So are we, of course, because the point in this brand of whodunit is not the "who" but making the most of its absurd premise. Is it the six-foot-tall African-American Abundance, who enters the ballroom accompanied by a Javanese rooster GMO'd to nearly her own height? Could it be the whiny Charles, whose elaborately choreographed and heavily costumed recital for his father's birthday goes all but ignored? Or could it be the boisterous Chick, whose upbringing has endowed him with the sobriquet "the chicken whisperer" or the showgirl wife who adores him? Everybody in the room has reason to want the Lord offed, but it's not until another barnyard denizen makes its presence known that the answer becomes manifest.
And for this entertaining show, The Handbags take advantage of the palatial mainstage at the Chopin to spread its 13-member cast, clad in sweeping gowns and towering tiaras, over four separate locales to dance thewhat else?Chicken Dance and show their skills at strutting rooster impressions.