Thursday, April 19, 2012

Off Broadway: Perfect Crime

Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap - the longest running play in modern history – may be in a class by itself (having clocked more than 24,500 performances in London’s West End since it first opened there in 1952 and still going strong), but Warren Manzi’s Perfect Crime at Broadway’s Snapple Theatre – the longest running non-musical play in New York City history with more than 10,000 performances under its belt - is no slouch either.  Having opened off Broadway in 1987, Perfect Crime has relocated several times over the years both on and off Broadway, but last night was something special as it celebrated its 25th anniversary performance, followed by dinner, an open bar and an anniversary party to which the entire audience was invited.

We first saw Perfect Crime, starring Catherine Russell as Margaret Thorne Brent, a psychiatrist, more than two decades ago and enjoyed it considerably.  But when we accepted an invitation to attend the 25th anniversary performance last night, we weren’t sure how well the play would hold up after all those years or whether we’d enjoy it this time nearly as much.

We needn’t have worried.  The play is still great fun – a rollicking, multi-layered whodunit in which Margaret may or may not have murdered her husband, W. Harrison Brent (John Hillner); in which one of Margaret’s patients, the cross-dressing Lionel McCauley, (Rob Sedgwick) may or may not be a murderer – or a victim – himself; and in which Inspector James Ascher (Richard Shoberg) may be on to Margaret, or may be in love with her, or both, or neither.

Amazingly, the lead role of Margaret is still being played brilliantly by Catherine Russell, who has starred in the play since its first performance (without ever having taken a sick day or vacation day), a feat which landed her a spot in the “Guinness Book of World Records.” During that time, Russell has spent nearly 17,000 hours onstage performing the role of Margaret, has shot 89 different men and kissed 57 others.  In total, the show has employed 237 actors during its 25-year existence – but Russell has been at the center of it all throughout that entire time.

It’s hard to imagine that one might live in New York and not yet have seen this show but if you do and if you haven’t, you might find it fun to do so.  You won’t get dinner and an open bar thrown in, but just going to see the play itself would still be worth your while.

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