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Inspired by The Rep, Milwaukee County native returns to roots
Combine Marx Brothers with Agatha Christie, along with lyrics, and you get ‘Murder for Two’


By JULIE McHALE -  Post Theater Critic

Nov. 16, 2017


Joe Kinosian, left, and Matt Edmonds in the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s presentation of “Murder For Two,” in the Stackner Cabaret.
Michael Brosilow

MILWAUKEE - One of our local boys has made it to the big time. 

Joe Kinosian grew up in Wauwatosa and attended the Milwaukee High School of the Arts, where his interest in theater was sparked. One of his teachers took interested students to many of the theater productions at The Rep, where he became more intrigued and engrossed in the possibility of pursuing a career in theater.

Moving to New York after graduation, he met a kindred soul while attending a Musical Theatre Workshop. He and his eventual creative partner, lyricist Kellen Blair, dreamed up this crazy mix of comedy and mystery called “Murder for Two,” which has been a national and international success and the winner of several awards.

Now, Kinosian is at the Rep, the theater where he witnessed so many wonderful productions. He gets to experience what it’s like to be on the other side of the equation.

Matt Edmonds is the investigative detective in the show while Kinosian plays all the other roles - an assortment of guests who are attending a surprise birthday party for a famous mystery writer. The novelist, alas, is shot before the festivities begin. The entire play involves examining the evidence and trying to determine a motive by questioning all the attendees.

Both men also play the piano throughout the show with humor and skill. They sing earnestly and quite effectively convey the clever lyrics by Blair. The bulk of the humor, however, comes from Kinosian’s adept impersonations of multiple characters, both men and women and some tough little kids. For a man his size, he is quite flexible, and his body language and facial expressions are amazingly varied.

“Murder for Two” attempts to combine an Agatha Christie mystery (specifically the writers were inspired by “And Then There Were None”) with Marx-Brothers-style humor, so much of the show is farce, but the music adds another delightful dimension.

The audience obviously enjoyed themselves, attested to by the immediate standing ovation that followed the merry mayhem. How anyone like Kinosian can perform with this much energy night after night, doing eight shows a week for nine weeks, is the biggest mystery of all. That can only happen when one is driven by a passion for performance and a desire to entertain others.

Kinosian’s life dream has come true - to be a writer, a musician, a comedian, and an actor.  “Murder for Two” is proof of that.

Well-directed by JC Clementz with a simple but effective set design by Regina Garcia, the show is sure to be a hit.  It was welcomed by a full house on opening night.
 

AT A GLANCE

“Murder for Two”

The musical runs through Jan. 14 at the Stackner Theatre, 108 E. Wells St., Milwaukee. Call 414-224-9490 or visit MilwaukeeRep.com for times and tickets.