IT COULD BE ANY ONE OF US by Alan Ayckbourn is a comic murder mystery with a twist. The playwright has written alternate second acts and the murderer changes from performance to performance - fun for the audience and a challenge for the actors. Ayckbourn is an amazingly prolific playwright, having written and produced at least sixty plays in England, many of which have also been Broadway successes. He's a master at slipping in understated and sly jokes. At one point a character says, "Beware of politicians that paint!" Although Ayckbourn's plays are invariably funny, his characters have unexpected depth and complexity.
The cast in the current production at the Depot Theatre is strong and all are able to create believable characters amid the merry mayhem. As Amy, the sullen teen-ager, Sarah Jane Johnson is convincing. I enjoyed her breakfast-dumping scene that dissolved into genuine giggles. Tom Treadwell has great fun with Mortimer, the nasty unrecognized and untalented composer.
As Brinton, his equally unrecognized and shyly eccentric artist brother, Scott Schaefer creates an extreme but real character. He has a few nice touching moments, particularly during his presentation of his drawing to Wendy.
Joanna Parson is very good as Wendy, Mortimer's former piano student. She's a master of the comic nervous tic and very funny at the piano, but she also finds the humanity in the role.
As Jocelyn Beth Glover does an excellent job of creating a three-dimensional character. Not only does she have a deft comic touch, but her affecting scene with her daughter Amy shows Jocelyn's depth.
Christopher Flockton is delightful as Norris, the unsuccessful detective. He's capable of not only a double but a triple take and his denouement speech is terrific. On opening night, with a perfectly timed pause, he took advantage of a coincidentally passing freight to deliver his line, "It's too late for . . . a train!"
Jean Brookman's set is good, right down to the flowered shawl on the piano. Her costumes are fine as well, especially Brinton's that are just enough "off". The sound is uncredited and is good, although the piano is a bit overpowering for Miss Parson's voice.
John Christopher Jones has done a fine job of directing and staging IT COULD BE ANY ONE OF US. He has a strong cast to work with and he's encouraged them to find all the nuances of these entertaining characters. He's also staged a very funny curtain call. This play is much less superficial than the usual summer fluff and provides a solid evening of comedy.
On a scale of one to five the Depot Theatre production of IT COULD BE ANY ONE OF US gets four and six eighths boxcars. For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.