Review: ‘Death by Design’ at The Potomac Playmakers

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By Karen Lane

Walking into the elegant, bright theater hall of The Woman’s Club, the audience happily chatters away anticipating a fun-filled evening. Before them on the stage, a cozy English sitting room invites curious glances. Rob Urbinati’s play Death by Design implies murder is afoot, but we soon discover laughter is its main objective.

And it delivers with this interpretation from Director Nic Sigman. From start to finish, this show packs a continuous romp of zany one-liners, over the top characters and plot twists which will make even the most serious of audience members giggle. Sigman, in his directing debut, does a fine job guiding his cast to create comedic gemstones.

In 1932, playwright Edward Bennett and actress wife Sorel, withdraw to their English country home after a particularly disastrous evening. Unexpected guests arrive – much to the dismay of the couple and staff – and a murder takes place. Housekeeper Bridget, thrilled to be able to solve a real crime instead of just reading about them in novels, is determined to solve the mystery.

Bridget, played by Devin Taylor, delights us with her Irish brogue as the scrappy, sarcastic family housekeeper. Armed with stage presence and a feather duster, she charmingly leads the audience into uncovering clues and questioning alibis. Jack, the chauffeur, played by Andrew King, hits your funny bone with his slapstick comedic timing combined with an impressive Cockney accent. He is perfectly paired with the talented Taylor. Both have great theatrical chemistry, and set the tone for a fun, laugh-filled production.

Barb McCormick absolutely shines as the overly dramatic actress, Sorel Bennet. She gracefully yet unapologetically steals every scene with her comedic prowess. Sorel is self-absorbed, dimwitted yet lovable and masterfully portrayed.

Tod Williams plays the long-suffering spouse and playwright, Edward Bennet, with talented ease and expert effect. You cannot help but adore his delivery of some of the best one-liners in the entire show. He makes it look effortless- a true testament to his talent.

Amaya Dull brings Victoria Van Roth to life as an over the top, holistic artist of sorts bathed in color and Sorel’s dearest friend. Dull vividly balances her larger than life character with funny subtle truths creating a witty performance. A great example is her progressive martini intoxication paired with her unwinding turban.

Bob Ashby, Kaitlyn Teach, and Karen Holmes round out this impressive cast  with moments of levity and hilarity.

The costumes by Tod Williams were appropriate – matching function with time and setting. Ms. McCormick looked especially lovely in an exquisite burgundy dress while Ms. Taylor radiated in a delicate pink floral. As hats were of a comedic element to the storyline, they too, deserve a hearty thumbs up.

Death by Design hilariously cures winter blues. With its light-hearted fun and guaranteed laughter, it’s also a perfect date night.

Running Time: Two hours, including one 15 minute intermission.

Death by Design plays through February 17, 2018, at The Potomac Playmakers performing at The Woman’s Club – 31 South Prospect Street, in Hagerstown, MD. For tickets, buy them at the door, or purchase them online.

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