Every good murder mystery has a twist, some sort of unexpected knick in the plot, as well as interesting characters. At the Asolo Repertory Theatre, audiences are treated to three twists and three equally fascinating characters during the production of Jeffery Hatcher’s “Murderers.”
Directed by Mark Rucker, the play has an episodic plot — meaning that instead of a linear story where each event leads to another event, the play consists of separate stories independent of one another, but with a common element. In this case, each story is a monologue and the common element is the location of the action. All three stories take place at the Riddle Key Luxury Senior Retirement Living Center and Golf Course, a fictional resort set right here in Sarasota, and all three characters are admitted murderers.
Each character tells his or her story as a monologue directly to the audience, one after another. First up is Gerald, played by Bryan Torfeh, a man who marries his girlfriend’s mother, so that upon her eventual death her money can go to him — and therefore her daughter — without paying capital gains tax. Naturally, this scheme doesn’t quite work out the way they planned.
Dressed in formal wear, Torfeh is a dapper, articulate gentleman. He delivers his story in a dry ironic manner, but shows complex emotion later when his situation changes.
He also demonstrates range when enacting the other characters in the story. His story would almost be appalling if Torfeh wasn’t so likeable in the role. He charms you and you forgive him his transgressions.
Lucy, played by Ann Morrison, is a resident of Riddle Key whose life is turned upside down when she discovers that the woman who once had an affair with her husband has recently moved into their retirement center. She also suspects that the woman and her husband have picked up where they left off, and she comes up with a clever scheme to get even.
Morrison avoids the obvious stereotypes that could easily sideline an actor playing an older character. Her Lucy is no sweet little old lady, but surprisingly candid, cunning and full of spirit. Even though she admits the hurt she feels, she goes about her revenge with glee, yet without sentiment. She’s very funny. Imagine an older Mary Tyler Moore getting revenge. Her twist is the best twist, and one you really don’t see coming.
Finally, Minka, played by Mercedes Herrero, works at Riddle Key and is a fan of mystery stories. She grows indignant of the treatment of the seniors in her care, and becomes an “avenging angel” upon those who would take advantage of the elderly.
Herrero plays her merry murderer with little remorse. She takes delight in the action with little regret. She plays the character almost as if she can’t believe the events of her own life. She’s also incredibly likeable. It is easy to sympathize with her because her victims are so foul. She is the last person you would expect to be a murderer, and that’s why it works.
The set, by Erik Flatmo, is minimal yet serves the play well. It is merely a Florida backdrop bordered by two walls. Each wall has slots cut into them to make way for various props and pieces of furniture. The set is not intended to create an environment, but rather used to serve the story, for in this play, the story is all.
It’s a fun play, precisely because these characters are not your typical murders, but rather people with whom we might live or work. The scenarios are never predictable, and you’ll never guess exactly how the murders will eventually come about.
Some of the situations may be a little too familiar to certain members of the community, but that’s just part of the fun.