Review by Katrina Reynolds
When a show is described as “a bit of Clue, a bit of Knives Out and a lot of fun,” I couldn’t get to Dayton fast enough to check it out. Human Race Theatre Company brings audiences Deadline, a world premiere comedy thriller by Marcia Kash and Douglas E. Hughes, running through November 20.
Deadline, directed by Jason Podplesky, is a creative take on the typical murder mystery story. Playwrights Mara (understudied this past weekend by Cincinnati’s own Kelly Mengelkoch) and Don (Josh Aaron McCabe) are on the verge of abandoning their writing careers. They are chosen to complete a famous mystery writer’s final play already slated to open on Broadway in a mere few weeks. Unable to say no to such an opportunity, they quite literally lose themselves in the play they have been asked to complete. Finishing it proves to be a real case of life or death.
Podplesky uses the space at The Loft expertly (although the running up and down makeshift steps in heels did give this reviewer a wee panic attack each time a performer had to navigate them). Mr. Podplesky’s direction provides the viewer with appropriate pacing with the exception of the time it takes to make one of the set changes. I have a feeling it was purposely done slowly for effect, but it could have certainly been shortened. Despite the timing of the change, Scenic Designer Ray Zupp’s set is beautiful and offers hidden gems throughout the duration of the show. The audience is just as easily swept into the play-within-a-play as are Mara and Don, as we go from an office to a yacht and beyond. Keep an eye out for a crafty trick or two by Costume Designer Janet G. Powell – she’s sharp as a tack in her ingenuity.
It is no surprise that even under a time crunch or deadline (get it?), Kelly Mengelkoch shines as usual. Ms. Mengelkoch adeptly switches characters without missing a beat and remains, as always, very relatable in her interpretation of said characters.
Not to be outdone, Ms. Mengelkoch’s primary scene partner, Josh Aaron McCabe, is superb and just as relatable. Their one-on-one scenes make the audience feel as though we are truly a fly on the wall while a pair of writers have legitimate discussions. In fact, every member of the mostly ensemble piece is impressive. In some shape or form, each actor has a chance to play more than one character and they each do so skillfully. Further, this cast collectively has the best hair seen on stage at once that I’ve experienced and that alone is worth the price of admission. (Top players on that would be Andrew Ian Adams and Christine Brunner, both in multiple roles.)
Deadline is definitely a good time with its mystery, farcical humor, and stage action. There are twists and turns as well as the expected bits. While you may not walk away feeling like you were moved to the core, this play does exactly what it should with a run-time of just under two hours including intermission: it entertains.
Deadline runs through November 20 at The Loft in Dayton. Tickets can be purchased by visiting DaytonLive.org.
Katrina “Kat” Reynolds is a local performing artist and directress. She serves as the copy editor for Rob Bucher’s Behind The Curtain Cincinnati. Her company, Harley Quinn Studios, produces old-timey radio show content and provides the place “where the voices in your head come to play”.