Spotlight: Murderers

George Byron Griffiths

Wickedness turns up in unlikely guises in this show, and as the body count rises, the homicidal drollery disguises a wild piece of subversion: the idea that some people might, you know, deserve to be taken out. These three monologues about a string of murders at a Florida retirement community were crafted by local playwright Jeffrey Hatcher and premiered in partial form at last year's Fringe Festival. Hatcher's dialogue glides along with a cleverness that at times seems glib--until one stops to consider all the little thought daggers he's just managed to plunge into the back of convention. Last Saturday, a nearly full house at Illusion locked into Hatcher's gift for one-liners and cruelty toward his characters. A central delight is hearing Hatcher's dialogue emerge from three quite disparate characters. Bob Davis is an unapologetic leech who gets hitched to his elderly mother-in-law for profit. Davis makes Hatcher's wordiness work to his advantage, obviously delighting in the script's polished barbs and his portrayal of a pretty nice guy with no morals at all. Barbara June Patterson as a golden-years housewife walks a tighter line in a role that requires her both to get laughs and generate sympathy. She's great, whether dropping details about her crappy marriage or dispensing humor (she remembers thinking up "something subtle" to tell her friends when their spouses fell prey to the town tramp, something like "Margaret's fucking your husband.") Finally, Phyllis Wright portrays an office worker-slash-serial killer who starts out with a (double) murder of convenience and then discovers that killing is a great way to get rid of all the town assholes. By the time Wright explains how she eventually turns murder into a career-advancement plan, we've pretty much dispensed with the entire store of human morality. Of course it feels great. Given Hatcher's skill at dialogue, tone, and story structure, we're led through a stack of grinning skulls and find ourselves smiling back at them.

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