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‘Murder in Green Meadows’ Makes for Psychological Thriller in Taut Bickford Production

Liz Keill

Tuesday, February 5, 2013 • 6:51am

MORRISTOWN, NJ – If you’re in the mood for a scary, funny and freakish entertainment, “Murder in Green Meadows” will fill the bill.
 
Written by Douglas Post, the plot has enough twists and turns, interjected with wry humor and absurd situations, to keep you engrossed. The snappy cast of four is directed by Duncan Rogers, who often appears on the Bickford stage.
 
These characters are all believable. Tom, an architect who designed the development of Green Meadows, is played with smooth charm by Jonathan Holtzman. While quite likely brilliant, he also has a trigger temper that keeps his wife, Joan, off balance. Langley Brandon plays his sexy, appealing wife, who has emotional needs of her own. Most disturbing is her description of dolls she burned as a child.
 
Nearby neighbors, Carolyn and Jeff, come calling and they soon become fast friends, with golf games, card games and dinners. Eventually, Jeff and Joan find they’re attracted to each other, which of course leads to complications. Elizabeth Simmons is the outgoing, friendly Carolyn, who sizes up situations clearly. Peter Kendall is Jeff, struggling as a business consultant, and befriending both Tom and Joan.
 
There are undercurrents, reflected in musical interludes,  that gradually surface behind their bland exteriors as we learn of Tom and Joan’s lives before moving to Green Meadows.
 
An important aspect of this play is the set itself, a handsome living room/kitchen designed by Bill Motyka. Thomas Rowe’s lighting adds to the intrigue, especially with so many scenes, signifying different days and weeks. At times, the various scenes detract from the building tension.  And the play might be even creepier with more stylish costumes and a sense of ‘entitlement’ that these characters attempt to convey.
 
Murder mysteries are not the easiest to bring off on stage, but this one works on a number of levels. Part of it is the absurdly matter-of-fact tone that Tom adopts, despite some clearly threatening actions. 
 
Based on a one-act television play, “Murder in Green Meadows” has no doubt been revised and extended to turn it into a full length play. Still, it works well, partly because we’re all so familiar with the "suburban" lifestyle and the casual friendships we form in our transient world.
 
The production continues at the Bickford through Feb. 17. For tickets, call 973-971-3706 or visit morrismuseum.org.
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