By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Bruce Coleman is a terrifically talented set designer who has perfected the art of black-and-white, art deco-influenced sets. In Death/Take I!, the interior of an Egyptian tomb is vividly recreated as it might have been for a 1930s film. I said it last year, and I'll say it again: if you haven't been to one of Kleinmann's whodunnit adventures, it's worth going for the set, music, and production alone. Kleinmann, Coleman, lighting designer Sam Nance, costume designer Judy Marcus, properties designer Steve Brannan, and even wig designer Arianna Movassagh have obviously worked obsessively to make the piece a visual delight.
Now if only it were funny. Last year's Deadline had some very funny moments. If you belong to the local Pegasus cult following, Kleinmann as would-be actor-detective Harry Hunsacker is always funny. But most of the lines fail for a more discerning audience, and that's too bad, because Kleinmann is one of the most endearing comic actors around, and he can deliver humor if he can write it.
Similarly, his sidekick Nigel Grouse is a wonderful actor waiting for some dialogue that will reveal his comic powers. But his wait is futile, and he's squandered in Death/Take I!.
Of course the play is as well-written as any episode of television's Murder, She Wrote. I can never tell if that series is meant to be so bad it's good; I'm afraid it's written in earnest. Kleinmann's writing is more self-aware than that, but I hold him to higher standards than I do the tube.