Review: “Death by Design” at the Potomac Playmakers

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By Karen Lane

Upon entering the elegant and light-filled theater hall of the Woman’s Club, the audience chatters happily as they wait for a fun night out. In front of them on stage, a cozy English lounge invites curious glances. Rob Urbinati’s play Death by conception implies that the murder is in progress, but we soon find out that laughter is his primary focus.

And he delivers with this interpretation of director Nic Sigman. From start to finish, this show contains a multitude of wacky lines, about the best characters and plot twists that will make even the most serious of viewers laugh. Sigman, in his early days as a director, does a great job guiding his cast to create comedic gems.

In 1932, the playwright Edward Bennett and the actress wife Sorel retired to their English country house after a particularly disastrous evening. Unexpected guests arrive – much to the dismay of the couple and staff – and a murder takes place. Housekeeper Bridget, thrilled that she can solve a real crime instead of just reading about them in novels, is determined to solve the mystery.

Bridget, played by Devin Taylor, delights us with her Irish brogue as a sarcastic and rambling family housekeeper. Armed with a stage presence and a feather duster, she charmingly leads the audience to discover clues and question alibis. Jack the Driver, played by Andrew King, hits your funny bone with his slapstick comedic timing combined with an awesome Cockney accent. He is perfectly paired with the talented Taylor. Both have great theatrical chemistry and set the tone for a fun, laugh-packed production.

Barb McCormick absolutely shines as overly dramatic actress Sorel Bennet. She gracefully but shamelessly steals every scene with her comedic prowess. Sorel is self-centered, silly yet lovable, and masterfully portrayed.

Tod Williams plays the long-suffering husband and playwright Edward Bennet with talented ease and expert effect. You can’t help but adore her delivery of some of the best one-liners of the entire show. He makes it seem effortless, a true testament to his talent.

Amaya Dull brings Victoria Van Roth to life as an exaggerated holistic artist, bathed in color and Sorel’s dearest friend. Dull vividly balances his larger-than-life character with fun subtle truths creating a witty performance. A good example is her gradual martini drunkenness paired with her unrolling turban.

Bob Ashby, Kaitlyn Teach and Karen Holmes round out this impressive cast with moments of lightness and hilarity.

Tod Williams’ costumes were appropriate – matching the function over time and setting. Mrs. McCormick looked especially lovely in an exquisite burgundy gown while Mrs. Taylor beamed in a delicate rose floral. As the hats were a comedic element of the storyline, they also deserve a warm boost.

Death by conception hilariously cures the winter blues. With its light fun and guaranteed laughs, it’s also a perfect date night.

Duration: Two hours, including a 15-minute intermission.

Death by conception plays until February 17, 2018 at the Potomac Playmakers at Woman’s Club – 31 South Prospect Street, in Hagerstown, MD. For tickets, buy them at the door, or buy them in line.


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