The Ahmanson Theatre’s “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” Mercilessly Mischievous—In only the Most Marvelous of Manners!

National Touring Company. (L-R) Kristen Beth Williams as Sibella Hallward, Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro and Adrienne Eller as Phoebe D'Ysquith, Photo Courtesy of Joan Marcus

National Touring Company. (L-R) Kristen Beth Williams as Sibella Hallward, Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro and Adrienne Eller as Phoebe D’Ysquith, Photo Courtesy of Joan Marcus

You know the classic tale: Boy loses mother to grim reaper.  Boy meets new lady old enough to be his mother who informs him all the riches in the world can be his if he would just…(no, no get your mind out of the gutter now) look into his mother’s past and divine her esteemed pedigree. Boy discovers his mother married his poverty-stricken father out of love only to be cut off by said lineage. Boy meets maternal family of origin and deems them all douchebags in the wake of their rejection despite the demise of his most dear mother.

Said story sets the perfect backdrop for our anti-hero: Monty Navarro and/or as the monetarily maternal line would dictate—Monty/Montegue D’Ysquith Navarro who, subsequent to stomaching said family’s slights, calculates how far down the lineage is his dukedome, then plots his reprisal.  The stage is then set for the ensuing and adventurous quest in masterful uh…obliteration…?  From the Icy Alps, to a manly bar, to Lady Hyacinth’s many trips abroad, to Monty’s unwitting cousin’s bee-hive infested backyard, to his Aunt and Uncle’s most ostentatious dining room boasting a painting the likes of which could have cost even more than the dining room set itself—it truly is a different stage and seemingly new musical for each and every venue switch. (Though, How Monty accrues the cashola to do all that stalking or uh travelling beats the heck outta me!)

National Touring Company. (L-R) Lesley McKinnell as Miss Barley, Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro and John Rapson as Asquith D’Ysquith, Jr., Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus.

National Touring Company. (L-R) Lesley McKinnell as Miss Barley, Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro and John Rapson as Asquith D’Ysquith, Jr., Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus.

“Come the revolution!” The 99% vs. the 1% and all that jazz–or rather (and more pertinent to this scenario) the .0000000000000000000000000000001% of the 99% vs the .05% that make up the 75% more like perhaps. Okay, now that we’ve gotten that all straight, the guy may have a point—an illegal point, but a point nonetheless.

On top of all aforementioned ambition in assassination, the ‘love’ portion of the musical involves a shallowly amorous Sibella (but not so shallow that she was adverse to loving Monty–albeit noncommittally—prior to realizing his wealth) in the form of a prissy pink Paris Hiltonesque statue-of-a-thing sporting enough assets of her own and an imagined little dog to match all that prosperity by way of pink should she flaunt it today—and the brunette Phoebe dressed all in blue—his dead cousin’s ex-wife turned aficionada. (Though it is interesting to note that in the program, their headshots display the exact opposite hair colors as their characters. Sibella under secret-in-a-box- cover and Phoebe under false pretresses?) But which one shall he choose—Sibella, Phoebe, the dark or the light–or both?!?

National Touring Company. Kristen Beth Williams as Sibella Hallward and Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro, Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus.

National Touring Company. Kristen Beth Williams as Sibella Hallward and Kevin Massey as Monty Navarro, Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus.

In a story both fast paced and crisp, neither the characters nor set changes miss a beat—all culminating in a surprise ending or two! And though witnessing the hero-as-killer was a slight bit off-putting, it also worked for what we had to work with! Moreover, the murders were some of the most inventive I have ever had the great missed fortune to witness…

The cast itself was just smashing! Of particular note, Kevin Massey as the cook, calculating and captivating ol’ Monty. Mary VanARSDEL echoes all the caps as in capital, in the best-for-last portion of her last name as Miss Shingle: The perfect combo/counter mother and scheming vamp. Kristen Beth Williams as Sibella Hallward is the perfect amalgamation of alluring yet aloof, sultry, yet slighting sophistry. Adrienne Eller as Phoebe D’Ysquith is both perky, pluckily and pleasantly persistent.  Uh…let’s see…?  Am I forgetting anyone…?  Oh yes! John Rapson plays nearly every other character and all the dead D’Ysquiths to boot– both male and female I might add to versatile and uniquely all-purpose perfection:  Asquith D’Ysquith Jr., Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith, Reverend Lord Ezekial D’Ysquith, Lord Asquith D’Ysquith Sr., Henry D’Ysquith, Lady Hyacinth D’Ysquith, Major Lord Bartholomew D’Ysquith, Lady Salome D’Ysquith Pumphrey, to name a phew… It is additionally important to note that Mr. Rapson is well…quite a dashing young chap but looks old as the hills while we are none the wiser in half his roles.  Same goes for Mary VanARSDEL as Miss Shingle and make-up design by Brian Strumwasser leaves us all the less aware! Hair and Wig mastery by Charles G. LaPointe are the authenticity lacking in Donald Trump’s best, yet worst toupee and the icing on the pate all in one!!!

The sets and scenic design by Alexander Dodge are some of the most fabulous I’ve ever seen (and that’s a virtual understatement as there is another part of me that can find nary a word to truly describe their magnificence). Gobsmacked I daresay…? And with only a few sets and props sporting an upstage video animatronics screen, courtesy of Aaron Rhyne, nearly one of the most original presentations I have witnessed yet!

National Touring Company. The cast with John Rapson as Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith (red), Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus.

National Touring Company. The cast with John Rapson as Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith (red), Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus.

Lighting by Philip S. Rosenberg fills all the murky bits of Monty’s masterful murder spree.

Costume design by Linda Cho is simply a feast for the eyes and all other manner of senses and should she design the next Lady Gaga Meat dress, let us just consider the circle (of life and/or anything else) prematurely complete.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder runs at the Ahmanson theatre in beautiful Downtown L.A. until May 1st!

For tickets and information, please visit:

https://www.centertheatregroup.org/tickets/gentlemans-guide/ 

Jennifer K. Hugus

About Jennifer K. Hugus

Jennifer K. Hugus was born at a very young age. At an even earlier age, she just knew she would one day write for the LA Beat! Having grown up in Massachusetts, France, and Denmark, she is a noted fan of Asian Cuisine. She studied ballet at the Royal Danish Ballet Theatre and acting at U.S.C. in their prestigious BFA drama program. She also makes her own jewelry out of paints and canvas when she isn’t working on writing absurdist plays and comparatively mainstream screenplays. Jennifer would like to be a KID when she grows up!
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