As you may know Moose Murders is arguably the most notorious flop in Broadway history. A mystery-farce from the mid-80s by Arthur Bicknell, it was a mess bedeviled in all departments from writing through production through casting through backstage politics and it closed in a single night. It wasn’t remotely the only unmitigated straight-play disaster in Broadway history by a long stretch, but something about the title, combined with Frank Rich’s overnight New York Times review—which divided the world forevermore into two groups: those who had actually seen Moose Murders and those who had only heard about it—gave it a legendary status that had escaped most of the others.
So naturally there’s been curiosity about it. And 30 years later an off-off Broadway company, The Beautiful Soup Theater Collective has seen fit to resurrect it.
Moose Murders, if one peruses the script (I did; it came with the publicity material), puts one in mind of the kind of thing the team of Sam Bobrick and Ron Clark used to write much more skillfully. Those plays too failed on Broadway, most very quickly, too slim and sitcommy to pas muster with the critics, but they were nonetheless funny, and cleaned up in stock and amateur productions in the wake of having their brief Broadway cred. In particular I’m reminded of Murder at the Howard Johnson’s (aka Murder at the Best Western, or any other local hotel or hotel chain in the area of the given production), which opened on Broadway with a cast consisting of Bob Dishy, Tony Roberts and Joyce Van Patten. All masters at comedy. For Moose Murders to have even a prayer of—well, “working” is a big concept; let’s say instead: holding stage as an amusing curiosity, given its history—it has to have people of that caliber. Not necessarily that famous, but that sharp.
At the Connelly Theatre, the non-Equity Beautiful Soup troupe is strictly community theatre level. Bad community theatre at that. Not only doesn’t Moose Murders earn its keep as a curio; it doesn’t even get to be a disaster again. For all the excellent publicity surrounding the show, the event itself is a nondescript, mirthless piddle that isn’t even worthy of curiosity, let alone controversy. I have already given it far too much attention, but only-only-only so that you, dear readers, never again spend so much as the energy it takes to conjure the title in your minds. Not only is life too short, it’s far fuller of theatrical train wrecks much worthier of the designation and the surrounding perception of novelty.
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