SALT LAKE CITY — The Advantageous Adventures of Mrs. Meddlesome Episode 2: The Curse of the Tomb by Cordelia Brand is a delightful radio play! The stage has five microphones lined up, with a piano off to the side, some chairs and various stands and desks littered with various objects. The pianist (JT Kaufman) begins to play as the narrator (Tim Evans) steps up to one of the mics and announces both the radio station hosting the radio play and the title of the live performance.
The most obvious perks of the play is the sound design; between live piano playing and the stage manager (Adam McGrath) making sound effects in the background (ie: a dog barking, footsteps, bodies falling to the floor), it’s easy to get immersed in the world. The piano plays throughout and feels like such a welcome addition; such as when there’s a dinner party, and the music is used to set the location, helping make the experience more visceral.
Since Mrs. Meddlesome is a radio play, there’s no use for sophisticated lighting. The most important element is the use of sound, which is further exemplified by the dialects. Each actor plays multiple characters (including the narrator), and by and large, they’re all pretty distinct and easy to keep up with. Jeffrey Blake (who plays Winston Churchill/Eugene Levard/Major Shaw/Deputy Minister of Antiquities/Lloyd) has the greatest diversity of accents and a lot of the comedic moments are due to his various characters (such as when he cedes the ground to Mrs. Meddlesome so she can announce her findings). Connie Thalman (who plays Mrs. Helen Meddlesome, the titular character), plays the least amount of characters, and does this fantastic New York accent for vaudeville dancer Eva Tanguay that is marvelous to listen to from beginning to end.
The only real drawback is that there are twenty four characters in total, and it can be difficult to keep up. The accents help, but it’s easy to miss names and Karlyn Salazar (who plays Catherine Uptight/Diana Churchill/Lady Genevieve Fernsby) didn’t make a strong enough distinction between Catherine (who is related to Mrs. Meddlesome) and Churchill (the daughter to the prime minister). The changes between the characters were so subtle, and often happened in the same scenes, so it’s easy to miss. And having such a large cast also means that when the big reveal happens, it can take a minute to remember who was who (as the victims) and who was who (as the murderers).
And with the added bonus of fake ads peppered throughout the performance, The Advantageous Adventures of Mrs. Meddlesome, Episode 2: The Curse of the Tomb is a must watch at Fringe. It’s both fun and funny, and a wonderful way to spend a summer afternoon!