Murder is given some Rope by the Actor’s Co-op

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Rope has a very dramatic beginning as lights flash, screams are heard, gun shots ring out and it is clear that one man is killing another and stuffing the body into a wooden chest. Fade to black. Then we are introduced to Wyndham Brandon [Burt Grinstead] and Charles Granillo [David Huynh] preparing for the arrival of guests shortly for small party. This is all taking place in the room where the violent murder has taken place only moments earlier.

Soon a small cadre of guests begin to arrive in part to perhaps look over some books that are being offered to those interested. Small talk is exchanged but along the way a special interest is drawn to the chest containing the body and it becomes clear the that murderer is very much enjoying the banter and the interest in the chest. This is exactly what he was hoping for, a curiosity among many that he, hoped, would never be completely resolved.  But he went so far as to serve the snacks to his guests off of the lid of the box containing the body. By now I was convinced that the character Wyndham Brandon was a severely sadistic psychopath.

Among the guests there was a man by the name of Rupert Cadell [Donnie Smith]. He is a somewhat mysterious man and at one point for no apparent reason begins to talk about murder. Others, especially Wyndham Brandon become mesmerized by the banter of Rupert Cadell. One thing he discusses is how society considers war to be a matter of national pride and courage while war, of course always results in the death of thousands and sometimes literally millions of people.

At the same time society vilifies the act of murder where one person kills, without legal justification another man. Murder is bad, but war is good? It does provoke thought.

Also interesting is watching the reaction of Wyndham Brandon to the words spoken by Rupert Cadell. I even began to suspect that Rupert knew or at the very suspected something dark had taken place in that room recently.

Once the other guests leave Rupert Cadell, Wyndham Brandon and Charles Granillo remain and the tension mounts considerably. A gun is produced, surely there will yet another death that day. Will it be Cadell, or Brandon or possibly even Granillo? One thing does, however, become inescapably clear and that is this in the end would not be the “perfect murder.”

Oh sure, Brandon thoroughly enjoyed having his guests in the room with the chest, chatting and sipping tea and otherwise having a great time unknowingly in the presence of a dead friend’s body and not knowing that the friend came to his untimely death. That experience seemed to be a significant element in the murderer’s motivation. But the party was over and a very determined Rupert Cadell was driven to expose the truth. How will that end? Will yet another person die that night? Well that is the kind of stuff you need to see for yourself.

Both Donnie Smith and Burt Grinstead gave superlative performances that often demanded a convincing display of nuance. And the monologue comparing war with murder, written by Patrick Hamilton and performed by Donnie Smith, was extremely thought provoking. When young men and women of one nation put on the uniform of their country’s military and then head out and kill many others wearing the uniform of an opposing nation, that is valor and rewarded with medals and parades. But when one man or woman picks up a gun, knife or some other weapon and then kills another person for whatever reason that is an evil crime. Well yes murder is an evil crime but why is one dead severely evil and thousands dead is bravery and valor? Just something to think about.

Rope runs now through October 29th2018 at the Actor’s Co-op Crossley Theatre, 1760 N. Gower Street, Hollywood, California 90028. Show dates and times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.  Reservations and ticketing maybe arranged by going online or by calling: 323-462-8460.

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