Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre, which always provides a thoroughly enjoyable evening of delicious food and light theater in its cozy converted barn, has hit upon a real winner with its current offering, Murder By the Book.
Written by Duncan Greenwood and Robert King, this quirky British mystery is full of clever dialogue and many surprises. Set in modern-day London, it retains an old-world feel reminiscent of Noel Coward.
David Couch is truly at his most suave and erudite to date as Selwyn Piper, an author of mystery novels who also publishes biting critiques of his competitors. Susie Couch is equally witty and urbane as his estranged wife, Imogen, who might have murder in mind. Co-producers of the show and partners in life as well as art, the Couches are delightful to watch as their characters play an increasingly complicated game of cat and mouse.
William York Hyde, the ingenious set designer for the company, takes a turn onstage (as well as creating the set) as John Douglas, Selwyn’s American publisher, who may or may not be in on the nefarious plan. Hyde is superb as the brash and bumbling contrast to the elegant English manners around him.
Beverlee Weinsoff is solid as Selwyn’s secretary, who is not only keeps his office running smoothly, but perhaps is keeping some secrets, too.
Dillon Yuhasz, as the invariably pleased-with-himself amateur detective-next-door, wins the audience over from his entrance with his flawless comic timing and priceless facial expressions. In his first-ever Circle Bar B show, Yuhasz demonstrates that he fits right in, his portrayal of this clever fellow evoking fits of laughter.
With the exception of Hyde, who plays an American, the cast does an excellent job with their English accents. Yuhasz is a standout with his fussy, upper-crust diction, to hilarious effect.
Director Mathew LaVigne, also a first-timer at CBB, guides the proceedings with a sure hand. The ensemble of five actors is tight and polished, and the action flows furiously with plenty of twists and laughs to spare.
Take the opportunity to see this highly entertaining production while you can. It’s not every day a blend of humor and fine performances like this — a real page-turner — comes along. Click here for tickets and information.
— Justine Sutton is a Santa Barbara freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer. The opinions expressed are her own.