Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

February 10, 2024

REVIEW: Opera House Players, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder”

Opera House Players, Enfield, CT
February 8 – 18, 2024
by Shera Cohen

When I first read that Opera House Players (OHP) had chosen “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” for its 2023/24 season my thought was that this community theatre troupe was taking on a huge task. Having attended OHP productions for 30+ years, I set my expectation level high. 

Current trends for plays in particular, as well as some musicals, are smaller and shorter. This is not the case with “Gentleman” which comes in at two and a half hours + intermission. The plotline of Act I is divided into seven sections with never a lull in dialog or music.

“Gentleman” is based on the 1940’s Alec Guinness movie, “Kind Hearts & Coronets”. Not one of my favorite 4-star movies and not as funny as I hoped, but that’s only my take. In his pre-Obi Wan days, Guinness was quite the actor! 

The play’s narrator, reading his diary aloud to himself and to the audience, breaks the fourth wall from the get-go; a nice method to bring the audience into the story so that we care about our hero (Monty) even more than we would possibly like any other baby-faced, naïve, destitute serial killer.

No worries, that’s not a spoiler. The director’s notes in the playbook tell us about Monty’s climb on the social ladder and search for overdue respect from his uppity relatives in the musty D’Ysquith family.

With the D’Ysquith  patriarch meeting his maker, eight heirs stand in line for the inheritance. Kudos to Zach Bakken, who plays all of the D’Ysquith family members: men and women, young and old. Each caricature seems funnier than the last as Bakken quickly changes costumes, accents, volume, demeanor, and voice. Bakken is a hoot, extremely versatile, and undoubtedly can do anything. Let’s see more of him!

The much-mentioned Monty Navarro is portrayed by Christopher Marcus. This attractive young man can be compared to Bakken as Laurel to Hardy, Abbott to Costello. The two play-off each other with ease. Marcus is thin and sinewy, using  physical humor to its optimum. Since this musical’s key factor is to be funny, you wouldn’t expect Marcus to be an excellent singer. He is! 

Monty’s love interests are Sibella, played by Caroline Darr; and Phoebe, played by Nicole Marie Newell. Darr’s mistress-role is more hysterical than lusty. Newell’s fiancé-role, again, is exceptionally funny. Each woman’s voice could easily be heard on a Broadway stage.

The orchestra, led by Graham Christian, even played funny, if that makes sense; a lot of schtick from the pit.

So much more to say. “Excellent” will have to be the single adjective to those on sound, lights, costumes, and sets with painted backdrops.

None of what I saw onstage, and surmise happened backstage would have been superb without the deft hand of Director Marla Ladd. Her bio is extensive. New to New England, any group who manages to swoop up Ladd in the future, will have an amazing piece of theatre on their stage.