Review: Rope (Bygone Theatre)

Rope, a twist on the standard whodunit murder mystery, is on stage at the Gibson House Museum in Toronto

Rope is a murder mystery which skips a few steps. We already know whodunnit: two overgrown schoolboys who’ve read a little too much Nietzsche and decided to attempt the perfect murder.

Having done the deed, they throw a small dinner party, with unwitting guests — including the victim’s father — nibbling on canapés served atop the makeshift casket. The sheer decadence thrills Brandon (Leete Stetson) to no end; his conspirator, James (Nicholas Arnold), has long since lost his nerve, and cannot cope with the consequence of his actions, nor the macabre party.

The mystery, then, isn’t “who did it”, but “will they get away with it”. Have Brandon and James committed the perfect murder, or are we watching it all slowly unravel?

The supporting cast are excellent: Matthew McGrath’s dandyish Kenneth is the perfect partner for Chelsey MacLean’s note-perfect Lelia, a bubbling and coquetteish flapper gal with lips for days and eyeliner to match. Ian McGarrett, as the victim’s father, has an interesting presence which detaches him from the rest of the company — a not-unpleasant effect.

David Dunkley’s millinery is also a highlight: there are only two ladies’ hats, but where this company dug up such marvellous and contrasting costumes is beyond me.

The problem is, the story does unravel quite slowly, and towards the end it began to feel like a string of endless monologues, none of which really explicated anything that hadn’t been adequately explained in the previous monologue.

This is especially disappointing because the show gets off to such a promising start. The “proper” party scenes are lively and fun to watch, moving quickly and crisply. But as the tension begins to mount, and as the number of characters dwindles, things begin to run slower and slower until, after a number of “false finishes” only led into more monologues, I was just about ready to reach out and open the damned trunk myself.

All of this being said, while the action cruises along, the character work is outstanding, particularly MacLean’s high-spirited modern bohemian, Stetson’s sinister schoolboy, and a few blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em flourishes from Elizabeth R. Morriss’ Miss Kentley.

Details

  • Rope plays through November 29th at the Gibson House Museum. (5171 Yonge St., access off Park Home Ave.)
  • Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the door or online.
  • Gibson House is a tiny venue, so advance purchase is strongly recommended.
  • Be aware that this performance includes sudden gunshots.
  • While this performance is suitable for all ages, its content may not interest younger people. (Approx. 14 or under)