Fit to Kill
nytheatre.com review by Kelly McAllister
April 11, 2005
Victor L. Cahn’s Fit to Kill is a frustrating piece of theatre. Frustrating in that it never lets itself go all the way in any direction, in terms of its characters, action, or mood. The potential for a good show is there—it just never takes off.
The play begins with a chess game—actually several chess games—being played over the telephone between Adrian and a host of unseen and unheard adversaries. Adrian, played by Patrick Melville, is a chess master, a snotty wunderkind who has married a rich but not-so-nice woman by the name of Janice for her money. Janice, played by Jana Robbins, is a boorish, pushy business woman—in fact the character is precariously close to the stereotype of the woman who, because she is successful in the business world, has become mannish and therefore supposedly unattractive.
Adrian, we are told, is a genius. He can play twenty chess games at the same time, without having to look at an actual board to remember where all the pieces are in each game. You’d think a man so smart would have some interesting things to say in a play—but such is not the case. The character as written comes across like your standard goldbrick husband who has married for money and now is trying to figure out how to get rid of the wife and keep the dough.
The third and final character in the show is the sultry Amy—a woman from Janice’s past who may or may not be seeking revenge. Amy, played by Lanie MacEwan, comes to the opulent mansion where Adrian and Janice live under the guise of being a reporter, but it soon becomes clear that she is there to both seduce Adrian and convince him to help her in her plans for revenge upon Janice. What follows is a game of cat and mouse that is a pale imitation of such great shows as Sleuth and Deathtrap. But whereas those thrillers have realistic characters and intricate plotlines that keep the audience guessing, Fit to Kill's script is pallid, with characters who are obvious, a plot that's too simple to figure out, and an ending that's far from shocking.
The actors do as well as they can with the material they’ve been given. All three have charisma and ability—but it seems to me that they just don’t have much to work with here. Eric Parness directs the show at a quick pace, but falters here and there. There are several times when the actors move on the chessboard-patterned floor like chess pieces, which comes across as an obvious attempt to match the movement of the characters with movements of a chess game. And there are bits of stage violence (the fight choreographer is Ray A. Rodriguez) that don't work at all: I won’t say what it is, because it would spoil some of the plot, but suffice to say that if you want to make people believe something violent is happening on stage, you should think twice about having said violence occur at the furthest downstage area. For example, at one point, one of the actors strikes one of the other actors in the face. From where I sat (four rows back) I could clearly see the actor miss the other actors face by a good two feet. At another point, one of the characters is repeatedly stabbed in the chest with a knife. This takes place centerstage, in plain view of the audience, leaving little room for the audience’s imagination, and highlighting the lack of imagination that pervades the entire show.
Nevertheless, the main problem with the show, I believe, is the script. It’s not smart enough for a mystery, and not deep enough for a drama. There are plenty of opportunities in the story to explore such themes as greed, lust and paranoia. But, frustratingly, those opportunities are never explored.