‘Death by Design’ brings dark, quirky humor to the Marion Art Center

Aug 24, 2019

MARION — The cast and crew of “Death by Design” brought a mix of screams and laughter to a packed crowd at the Marion Art Center on opening night, Friday, Aug. 23.

The tongue in cheek murder mystery takes place in 1932 in the countryside village of Cookham England, in the living room of playwright and actress Edward and Sorel Bennett. Director Kate Fishman described the over the top comedy written by Rob Urbinati as “Agatha Christie meets Monty Python.”

Fishman wasted no time introducing the audience to the play’s quirky sense of humor. In her introduction before the performance she asked the crowd “does everyone have a cell phone? Guess what, 1932, not so much...turn it off!” She also named the Marion Art Center’s new and quiet air conditioner as the “star of the auditorium.”

Free of any noisy disruptions, the play began with the Bennett’s maid Bridgit  and chauffeur Jack discussing the couple’s latest altercation in which Sorel threw a vase, cutting her husband’s face. The couple’s tumultuous marriage becomes comedically evident as they enthusiastically contemplate each other’s murder with Bridgit. Often the potential victim in the same room,  shielded from the other’s comments with their own vanity.

When a series of unexpected guests arrive to the Bennett’s home, the absurd comedy doubles as a murder mystery, with each suspect having their own potential motive. Despite the seemingly dark subject matter, a sense of silliness stands out in the interactions between characters.

When discussing murder, Bridgit tells Edward that wives often neglect to think about maids when they kill their husbands, and spill blood all over their carpets. Edward assures her that if he ever kills his wife, he’ll be sure to do it in a way that doesn’t make her job any harder than it already is.

Other comments like “this is no time for euphoria, Victoria,” “I shall prepare the Caligula room,” and “diplomatist” highlight Urbinati’s quirky parody of the murder mystery genre.

For cast members, the balance of drama, and comedy felt naturally written into the play. “You can make any type of genre funny, it just depends on how you approach it,” said Tristan McCann, who played Jack.

Susan Sullivan played Bridgit, and said that she was cracking up during her first reading of the script. For Scott Fishman, who played Edward, interacting with and playing off of the other characters was  key to the performance. Sabrina Guilbeault played Alice, a shy but sweet murder suspect, and added that the show was a true ensemble piece, with cast members supporting each other in the performance.

To see a list of showtimes, and purchase tickets to the “comedy that kills” go to http://www.marionartcenter.org/events/death-by-design/.