Richardson — A drop-dead funny new whodunit in Living Black & White, featuring Harry Hunsacker, world-class bumbling detective and wannabe actor, is always something to celebrate. Just ask the sold-out crowd of Harry’s fans who regularly flock to the Eisemann Center on New Year’s Eve to see what their favorite noir sleuth is up to.
Pegasus Theatre Artistic Director Kurt Kleinmann, playwright and creator of the trademark makeup, costumes and soundscape spoofing ’30s and ’40s films, celebrates the company’s 31st season with the world premiere of Death on Delivery!, the 18th play in the popular series.
With the new play, Kleinmann not only delivers a newborn into the series, but also hands over the role of Harry, which he has played for 30 years, to veteran Pegasus actor Scott Nixon. Mother, child and the new incarnation of Harry are doing fine. Certainly, Nixon, a large man with a tenor-ish voice and puppyish eagerness, brings a fresh innocence and lost-in-the-funhouse curiosity to the role. In his three-piece suit (costumes courtesy Jen J. Madison) and presenting Harry’s familiar narcissistic tendencies, Nixon’s Harry explains, “When the conversation isn’t about me, I lose interest.”
Attaboy, Harry. Some things should never change.
This time Harry and his sharp paid-by-the hour assistant Nigel Grouse—played by handsome, stylish Ben Bryant, returning to keep stiff posture and a tie-straightening nod to the ladies alive on the stage—find themselves in City Hospital. They’re there in support of the third member of their crime-solving trio, Lt. Foster, who’s just become a father. Chad Cline’s Foster is his usual grumpy self, even more annoyed by hapless Harry than usual because his beautiful wife Bubbles (a perfectly dimpled and sweetly effusive Leslie Patrick) has named their newborn Harryette.
Director Michael Serrecchia, back for his sixth Harry whodunit, keeps the highly stylized acting fun to watch, and achieves some cool stage sleight of hand in the comings and goings of suspects and detectives between closet doors, curtained beds, and corridors.
Ah, but City hospital is more than just the new baby wing. We all know that death can be delivered anywhere in a hospital, from the busy nurse’s station to the white, black and gray-toned halls of a curtained hospital room in Robert Winn’s simple and door-filled set design. Harry barely has time to chat up a pretty patient before the first body drops with a thud that gets everybody into detective mode. The game’s afoot! Or maybe that was just Harry stumbling over somebody’s shoe.
Suspects abound, and Harry and his team are not exempting anyone, not the handsome intern (stylish Johan Munroe) or the brilliant lady doctor (elegant Alex Moore) or Lt. Foster’s delightfully derisive mother-in-law (petite and forceful Allyn Carrell), who Lt. Foster calls “a pain in the patoot.” Ah, noir. And that doesn’t include all the other suspicious looking staffers.
In his brilliant deductive manner, Harry sums it up for Nigel. “If one of these people is a murderer and they all say they are not the murderer, that means somebody is lying. Right?” Who can argue with such rigorous logic? That Harry has a mind like a steel trap. Of course, we always hope our slow-on-the-uptake hero doesn’t fall into one during the play.
At intermission, guests are invited to guess the real culprit to win a spiffy T-shirt. All the suspects appear guilty, and there are so many possible murderers, you feel a little like Harry. This time there’s a special twist that you need to see to believe. Warning: if you’re laughing too hard, you might miss it.
And given how funny Death on Delivery! is, that's likely.