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Talented stars up to challenges of Marriott's 'Murder for Two'

★ ★ ★ ½
"Murder for Two" only calls for two actors, yet this challenging 2011 musical doesn't receive as many productions as other similarly sized shows. To see why, head to the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire to be wowed by the super-talented twosome tackling this madcap musical mystery.

Not only does "Murder for Two" demand that its two adept actors keep the zany comedy afloat, the performers must also double up and alternate as the musical's polished onstage pianists. To complicate matters further, one actor has to "dozen-up" by switching through 12 different murder suspects, each of whom are questioned by an insecure and aspiring police detective.

Thankfully director Scott Weinstein has found the perfect pair to pull off Marriott's "Murder for Two." New York-based Noel Carey comes to the production after starring as the police officer Marcus in the musical's post-off-Broadway tour from 2014. Meanwhile local actor Jason Grimm has a field day zipping through all the suspects.

You know you're in great hands right away with this duo, especially as Grimm physically differentiates between his many comic characters. These suspects, who all bear grudges against the murdered mystery novelist Arthur Whitney, include a longtime bickering married couple, an Austrian psychiatrist, a femme fatale British ballerina and a pack of sarcastic street urchins.

The emotional heart of "Murder for Two" lies with Marcus, who hopes to be promoted by solving the murder, and Carey affectionately conveys Marcus' confusion and ambition as he seeks to turn his life around.

Weinstein and his production design team aid and abet in the synchronized self-aware silliness -- particularly through designer Jesse Klug's razor-sharp lighting shifts and Scott Davis' luxurious rotating mansion set, which offers a far more visually opulent approach than the 2011 world-premiere run of "Murder for Two" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

At times, this delightful musical by co-authors Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair strains as it juggles plot threads and premises. And while Weinstein's one-act production is breezily paced, the show nearly wears out its welcome, much like a comedy sketch that goes on a tad too long.

Yet these minor drawbacks are far outweighed by the masterful merriment of Marriott's delectably daffy duo.