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Righto, love: A whole lot of deducting going on
Published: 12.06.2007

What will it be? Revenge or forgiveness? Seeking revenge surely makes for better theater. Check out the mind games in "The Business of Murder" by Richard Harris. This ingenious whodunit shifts into a howdunit before reaching its resolution as a whydunit.

Invisible Theatre has turned to secular counter-programming for the holidays by coming up with this crisp production directed by James Blair. The subject is murder, but the active ingredient is cleverness.
If you love to watch a good mystery unfold onstage, if you enjoy staying at least one jump ahead of the playwright, this show is for you. It is written in the grand old tradition of Agatha Christie, with a whole lot of deducting going on.

The story takes place in London, in the relatively modern time of 1981. The one-room set does include a telly that is turned on now and then, with some other present-day conveniences mentioned in the dialogue.

Harold Dixon plays Hallett, one of those casual but saucy detectives always standing around with his hands in his pockets, making smart remarks. Act One opens with Hallett in the apartment of Mr. Stone (Douglas Mitchell), who is upset. It seems Mr. Stone's adult son might be accused of murdering Mr. Stone's wife. But pretty soon this setup is tossed into the hopper and the plot's premise begins shifting to cast Mr. Stone in a more dubious light.

By the time Maedell Dixon shows up as the mysterious Dee, all bets are off on who did what to whom.
What makes all this so much fun is seeing how evenly matched the two men are as actors. Making such a complicated plot believable requires a convincing presence. Audience members must be willing to throw themselves into every brain-wrenching twist of suspense this playwright can dream up. For that to happen, the characters must be devoted to being devious, capable of everything the script commands.
Mitchell has more lines and more explaining to do, but Harold Dixon counters with attitude. He smirks and sneers, gives the impression this is just one more crime to solve. But as more and more layers of plot are peeled away, Dixon's level of frustration rises.

Maedell Dixon's role as Dee becomes more pivotal as the conflict increases. At first we think she is just the dame. In terms of hard-boiled fiction, the woman whose presence gives all the guys so many naughty, then nasty thoughts.

Once everyone realizes nothing in this play is ever going to be what it seems, Dee's presence becomes more than symbolic. She has the potential to be a threat to both sides.
In real life, the Dixons are married to each other. Their professional careers in theater and as educators include many performances with Tucson theater companies. Harold is also a "University Distinguished Professor" in the School of Theatre Arts at the University of Arizona.
Mitchell's lengthy theater background includes considerable work in network television and more than 150 stage productions in New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Oregon. On the Invisible Theatre stage they are banging around like a couple of bulls in the same china shop.

Grade: B

additional information

What: Invisible Theatre presents "The Business of Murder" by Richard Harris
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 16
Where: Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.
Price: $22-$25, with group discounts
Info: 882-9721, www.invisibletheatre.com

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