Arts & Events

“A Killer Story” at Berkeley Marsh—intriguing language, ideas, difficult form

By John A. McMullen II
Friday April 26, 2013 - 11:42:00 AM
Madeline H.D. Brown and Robert Parsons with Ryan O’Donnell (in background)
David Allen
Madeline H.D. Brown and Robert Parsons with Ryan O’Donnell (in background)

“A Killer Story” by Dan Harder at the Berkeley Marsh has talented actors and a provocative message about the power of fear and conjecture. However, it’s structure—extensive and overlapping monologues with only an occasional exchange of dialogue holds it back from gripping you as detective stories ought. It could easily be high-level radio drama with a 1940’s touch. 

When it started, I was struck—nay, clobbered—with the piano score by Randy Craig. It seemed much like the theme from Garrison Keillor’s Guy Noir a parody of the detective genre on NPR’s “Prairie Home Companion.” I soon recognized that this was a serious drama, but every time the piano struck up the music I giggled internally which intruded on my enjoyment.  

Directed by Michelle Haner, it is performed in low light, with a red flooded backdrop and gobos of jail bars across the actors. 

Madeleine H. D. Brown’s Lana Turner-esque turn is slinky, fashionable, and the essence of svelte femme fatale, and her movement—somewhere between dance and model posing, entrancing and sensual —is the high point of the show. 

Robert Parsons plays a paranoid neuroscientist; long-boned, cadaverous-looking the clichéd down-light, this 6’4” actor’s matter-of-fact yet deep persona was the break from the persistent nagging giggle that kept dogging me and nipping at my enjoyment of the play. 

Ryan O’Donnell looks the part of the private dick, rumpled and surly, but is unusually expressive for the genre, breaking the cards-close-to-the-chest Bogey expectations, and this helps sustain our attention. 

They all deliver their long narratives convincingly, but long monologues in low light are lulling. 

The writing is above average and strives to be poetic. There are some intriguing turns of phrase, some alliteration and similes that make you smile, and the language is enjoyable. 

The audience seemed to enjoy it, no one departed during the 90 minutes, and gave them a rousing applause. “A Killer Story” plays at The Marsh Berkeley at 2120 Allston Way through May 18.