Review ~ 'Secondary Cause of Death' at Phoenix Stage Company

Nancy Sasso Janis / OnStage Critic 'Secondary Cause of Death' is the sequel to 'Murdered to Death' that ran at the Phoenix Stage Company back in 2012. The play is the second in the Inspector Pratt trilogy of spoofs of the Agatha Christie 'whodonnit' genre written by Peter Gordon.

The time has moved to 1939 in prewar Europe. Colonel Charles Craddock (brought to life once again by Rob Richnavsky) has converted Bagshot House into a hotel for an interesting mix of discerning visitors. The bumbling Inspector Pratt (this time played by Evan Grabenstein in his PSC debut) comes back once again to Bagshot House. In this sequel we meet Joan Maple’s sister bossy Cynthia (who bore a remarkable resemblance to her sister because both of them were played by Kathy Cook) who arrives to stage a murder mystery evening. It’s not long before Pratt’s visit turns into a chaotic nightmare as the bodies pile higher than ever in this murder mystery.

The inspector is really the star of the show and Mr. Grabenstein was spot on in his bumbling delivery and rapid fire malapropisms that kept those of us that were able to follow along laughing often. The sheer amount of his lines must have been overwhelming and his obligatory trench coat was almost his costar. I hope to see this talented actor in other productions.

Many of the characters had foreign accents and everyone did well with them; the script required some of them to come and go by design. Kristen Jacobsen was the perfect upper crust Lady Isadora Pollack with a secret. Alana Kingsley was the mysterious Captain Henrietta Woolmer-Cardinton with a great hairstyle and immaculate military uniform.

Mr. Richnavsky also appeared as the actor Cardew Longfellow and the audience had little trouble telling them apart...usually. Roseanne Elliot, also a member of the cast of 'Murdered to Death,' now played the colonel's nurse instead of his wife. Chris Evans returned for the sequel but has switched from a constable to a strange Polish count. Mr. Evans will be appearing in the upcoming production of 'Avow' at the Warner Theatre.

Lori Poulin played the cook Lily Tuthill...or was she? And Deborah Goodman played the maid Martha Armstrong.Ed Bassett has directed this piece with sharpness. The period costumes he designed were perfect and the hair styles by Lori Richnavsky brought even more authenticity to all the characters. The set designed by the director was a clever one and Lori Poulin, Nancy Dodge and Laurie Phillips did an amazing job with its decoration.

This show had lots of humor mixed in with the rising body count. There were plenty of twists and turns to satisfy Agatha Christie lovers. Because many performances of this show were cancelled due to weather, 'Secondary Cause of Death' has been extended to March 6, 7 and 8. Tickets are available.

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