Anything can happen in “Any Number Can Die.”
Owls hoot, thunder howls, lights flicker and lives are lost due to gunshots, poison, hanging and stabbing. But don’t let that constant violence spoil your evening at the theater. It’s all in good fun, as the stage play soundly satirizes every murder mystery you’ve ever read or seen.
The campy comedy by Vermont’s prolific and playful playwright, Fred Carmichael, is being staged through Oct. 13 by the Baldwinsville Theatre Guild.
Set on a deserted island off the coast of the Carolinas in 1928, the plot reunites a handful of unfriendly family members who gather to hear the midnight reading of a will written by their very wealthy and thoroughly dead uncle.
In Carmichael’s script, this hackneyed premise is saved by broad dollops of humor, including visual absurdities such as wild wigs, a pasted-on mustache, copious cobwebs, a moveable rat sculpture and a cute-as-a-teddy-bear owl that oversees all the action.
The cast of 10 — directed by longtime BTG actor-director John LaCasse — rises to every occasion, including romantic rendezvous, disrespectful disagreements and a drove of death scenes. While the ensemble gels to wring every laugh possible out of Carmichael’s dialogue, one performer stood out noticeably.
Kitty Doupe, who has played bit parts in previous BTG productions, raises the ante here as Zenia, a West Indian servant girl supposedly married to a loathsome, limping butler convincingly portrayed by Harlow Kisselstein.
With her big brown eyes and her subtle Creole accent entrancing the audience, Doupe’s Zenia utters ominous lines like “Evil is more potent than electricity.” Regardless of the dialogue she delivers, Doupe naturally dominates the action with a sturdy stage presence which is both sensual and spooky. BTG producers take note: this lady is ready for a lead role!
Zenia’s colorful threads are one of the many triumphs of costumer Anne Gray, who clad the cast in 1920s finery such as mink stoles, smoking jackets, ascots and taffeta gowns. To emphasize Zenia’s Haitian roots, Gray dresses her in a bright, sky-blue dress with a red hibiscus pattern offset by a pink, fringed shawl wrapped casually around her waist and topped off by a blue bandanna skullcap. An array of white-gold jewelry completes the enchanting ensemble.