REVIEW: Death By Design at Reno Little Theater

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Reno Little Theater’s latest production, opening this weekend, is a British comedy about jealousy, sex, and death. It’s interwoven with some commentary about the role of arts in modern culture that can’t help but be associated with ongoing, modern attempts to defund government-sponsored arts for ideological reasons.

The more things change…

The premise: A couple — a playwright husband and actor wife — bemoan a negative review of their recent production while retreating to a rural British estate. A maid and butler chime in with wit and groveling over various states of affairs as the plot develops.

While “Death By Design” is almost a classic whodunit, its comedic twists and turns add a fresh presentation to classic murder mysteries. The characters are exciting, angry, passionate, sexual, murderous, and above all, hilarious.

Evonne Kezios, playing Bridgit, is a suspicious Irish maid determined to find out who murdered one of the guests. Walter Pierce, played by Jeff Chamberlin, verbally spars with communist activist Eric (played by Scott Hernandez), who interrupts the gathering to ensure the group that lack of support for the arts is tantamount to the world ending.

Eric is crazed and passionate, providing comedic relief in the face of confused circumstances. Ultimately, he too succumbs to being seduced, but not quite in the way you would immediately consider.

Darcy Lendardson plays Sorel Bennett (wife of Edward Bennett, played by Michael Peters), and vacillates between frustration and trying to score (men, chocolate, booze). Many of the play’s male characters receive her advances — her husband, lover (Pierce), and Eric. She’s very horny. And narcissistic.

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Kelsey Varahachaikol (the character of Victoria Van Roth) is a dramatic diva. Image: Bob Conrad.
Victoria Van Roth (Kelsey Varahachaikol), the dramatic diva. Image: Bob Conrad.

Kelsey Varahachaikol (the character of Victoria Van Roth) is a dramatic diva who busts an impromptu artistic dance to express her emotions, bewildering the rest of the estate’s guests at times, but offering a significant comedic presence — one of her underarms is shaved, the other is not, for example – and ultimately passes out from too much alcohol.

In all, “Death by Design” is occasionally hard to follow, owing to the 1930s-era English banter and accents, but the plot is enticing and there’s enough action throughout to keep just about anyone entertained.  There’s plenty of chuckle-worthy scenes during two acts that run about 40 minutes each.

The intermission is subtle but golden in a slightly twisted way. While a break may be necessary, the intermission also adds to the plot.

“Death by Design” is probably a PG-13 rating due to sexual innuendo, adult themes, and some amount of violence. (Loudness alert: There are a few surprise gunshots.)

Sorel Bennett (Darcy Lendardson), center, is lookin' for love in the all the right places. At left is Walter Pearce, played by Jeff Chamberlin; at right is Eric played by Scott Hernandez. Image: Bob Conrad.
Sorel Bennett (Darcy Lendardson), center, is lookin’ for love in the all the right places. At left is Walter Pearce, played by Jeff Chamberlin, Bennett’s lover and a conservative politician; at right is socialist activist Eric played by Scott Hernandez. Image: Bob Conrad.

Details

Reno Little Theater
147 E. Pueblo Street
Reno, NV 89502
775-813-8900

Written by: Rob Urbinati
Directed by: Ryan Costello

Dates:

  • Evening Show dates: 3/9, 3/10, 3/15 (tt), 3/16, 3/17, 3/22 (tt), 3/23, 3/24 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Matinee Show dates: 3/10 (PWYC), 3/11, 3/18, 3/25 at 2 p.m.
    (tt) = Thirsty Thursday- FREE drink with ticket purchase, PWYC denotes Pay-What-You-Can performance, * denotes post-show talk-back.

Tickets:

  • Regular: $25
  • Senior/Military: $20
  • Student: $15

Synopsis:
A country estate filled with mysterious guests, a snipped telephone wire, and a MURDER! It might all sound familiar, but this uproarious comedy will deliver a new and hilarious take on these classic themes where the weapon of choice is laughter.

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Cast:
(In order of appearance)
Bridgit…………………..…Evonne Kezios
Jack……………………..…Johnny Berriochoa
Edward Bennett………..Michael Peters
Sorel Bennett……………Darcy Lenardson
Walter Pearce………….Jeff Chamberlin
Eric……………………..….Scott Hernandez
Victoria Van Roth………Kelsey Varahachaikol
Alice…………………….….Katie Hughes

The role of Victoria Van Roth will be played by understudy, Anna Christine on Sunday, March 11 and Thursday, March 22.

“Death By Design” is presented by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.

About Bob Conrad 926 Articles
Bob Conrad is co-founder of ThisisReno. He manages ThisisReno and Conrad Communications, LLC, his marketing communications consulting company. He also works part time for the University of Nevada, Reno.