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Fit to Kill

 anie MacEwan, Patrick Melville, and Jana Robbins
(left to right):L Patrick Melville and Jana Robbins
(Photo: Steve Ferdman )
Victor Cahn's Roses In December (review) which played Off-Broadway a couple of years ago had enough charm to make me want to see his new play Fit to Kill. Unfortunately, the good qualities of that epistolary two-hander have not rubbed off on this suspense thriller.

The problem is that while there's some suspense about the how and when of the murder that's obviously going to happen, all three characters are immoral enough to make us accept them as either killer or victim. None are interesting enough to hold our attention.

The two main characters are Adrian Bonham (Patrick Melville), a professional chess player in his thirties, who, to support his taste for the finer things in life, has allowed himself to become the boy toy husband of Janice Stoner (Jana Robbins), a controlling mid-forties exercise empire tycoon. The outsider bringing trouble to the already troubled relationship is Amy Courtland (Lanie MacEwan), a disgruntled employee of Janet's.

Adrian represents every stereotype of the man who relies on his charm to support his expensive habits. Janice is equally stereotypical, the very model of the worst case profile for the hard-driving, castrating career woman. And Amy. . .well, she's just plain unbelievable.

The chess background adds little to the intrigue except a rather gimmicky checkered floor -- which doesn't go with Robert R. Sweetman's elegant furnishings for the home in which the motivations and plans for the murder unfold. Maybe if the playwright and director had made more use of chess grandmaster Susan Polgar, who's listed in the program as a consultant, more could have been made of this than an opening sequence in which Adrian, facing the audience, replays a chess game in which he makes the wrong move (foreshadowing all the wrong moves to come, by him and the two women).

I'm not giving much away if I tell you that Adrian is fed up enough with Janice to do her in and that Janice isn't all that anxious to hold onto him either. That's because this is strictly an amateur chess game, with every clue is blatantly obvious, rather than played with finesse.

Neither the actors or director Eric Parness manage to overcome the intrinsic flatness of this flat-footed thriller. The play's only redeeming feature is that it costs just $15 -- but then if you surf around the channels on your home screen, you might just find some free reruns of those half-hour thrillers Rod Serling did so well.

Written by Victor L. Cahn
Directed by Eric Parness.
Cast: Jana Robbins, Lanie MacEwan and Patrick Melville.
Set Design: Sidney Shannon
Costume Design: Pamela Kupper
Lighting Design: Nick Moore
Sound Design: Robert Sweetman
Running time: 1 hour and 50 minutes, including an intermission.
Rachel Reiner Productions at Harold Clurman Theatre, 410 West 42nd Street, 212/279-4200
From 4/09/05 to 4/30/05
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sundays at 3:00pm, and Mondays at 7:00pm.
Tickets: $15.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on April 9th press performance
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