Clever and Ridiculous Antics Collide in The Roustabouts’ Hilarious ‘Savoyard Murders’

David McBean and Phil Johnson (Photos courtesy of Ken Jacques.).

David McBean and Phil Johnson (Photos courtesy of Ken Jacques.).

Earlier in 2023, the Artistic Director of The Roustabouts Theatre Co., Phil Johnson, starred in one of the most grim, tragic and intense satires of the year, gUnTOPIA. Johnson clearly has range, because he is now co-directing and starring in one of the silliest and funniest plays of the year, The Savoyrard Murders.

Taking place at theatre critic’s, Tiberius Spriggs’ (Johnson), London flat in the 1920s, he invites several people to join him for a unique game involving murder. His guests include the seemingly youthful actress, Rowena Rawlings (Taylor Henderson), an Opera singer, Cyrus Schock (Durwood Murray) and an intolerant widow, Desdemona Chatfield-Snarr (Wendy Waddell).

They eventually learn about a complicated mystery involving Gilbert and Sullivan operas and a variety of local victims (played by David McBean).

Saying too much more about the plot would give away the fun from playwright, Omri Schein. His script is full of so many twists and turns, that it is impossible to guess every single surprise that happens.

Schein gleefully mixes intelligent jokes and dialogue with ridiculously irreverent punchlines as well. He incorporates different styles of humor to keep audiences laughing.

On paper, the story is dark with plenty of death and twisted characters onstage. Yet, it never comes across that way, because the frequent action is staged with an exaggeratedly tongue-in-cheek style.

Schein takes no prisoners when it comes to the arts world, making fun of all kinds of theatre people from critics to directors and stars. Even a theatre critic like myself was laughing at every playful jab that Schein took at the self-centered Tiberius.

Schein’s plot is also a celebration of the work of Gilbert and Sullivan. You could easily start a drinking game of all the times the iconic duo is referenced in the evening.

Directors, Johnson and Schein, win over the audience early on at the Scripps Ranch Theatre with a musical number composed by Daniel M. Lincoln introducing most of the major players. The song is so fun and well performed by the cast (many of them are musical theatre performers) that I would not object if even more tunes had been featured.

Both directors keep up the high energy as information about Tiberius’ “game” is revealed.

Taylor Henderson and Durwood Murray.

Taylor Henderson and Durwood Murray.

All of the crew members contribute to the over-the-top tone, with lighting designer, Michelle Miles, sound designer, Pual Durso, costume designer, Jennifer Brawn Gititngs, scenic designer, Yi-Chien Lee and hair and wig designer, Peter Herman, presenting a world that is anything, but subtle.

The cast members give proudly broad performances, with Johnson, Henderson, McBean, Murray, Waddell, Eliott Goretsky and Daren Scott scoring laughs consistently throughout the plot. Each thespian gets the chance to shine as the events onstage get frequently absurd.

Roustabouts encourages theatregoers to vote for a potential killer during intermission, and participating adds to the enjoyment of the eve.

Schein displays his love of mysteries with a mainstage production that provides more than a barrel of laughs. Regardless of whether or not you can predict the killer, you will likely be cackling often from Schein’s wacky antics.


[box] Show times are Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm. [/box]

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The Roustabouts Theatre Company
P. O. Box 222 1286 University Avenue San Diego California 92103-3312 Work Phone: 619-728-7820 Website: The Roustabouts Theatre Company
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