On December 26, 1996, six-year old JonBenet Ramsey was reported missing, the victim of an apparent kidnapping, and later found dead in the basement of her Boulder, CO home. A bizarre ransom note and mismanaged investigation has led to over a decade and a half of speculation, most of it focused on JonBenet’s parents, John and Patsy, and even her older brother, Burke, and what role, if any, they played in the child beauty pageant star’s death. Most theories implicating one (or more) of the Ramseys allege sexual and/or physical abuse.
Are you laughing yet?
Of course, most, if not all, of the above true crime story is familiar to us, as is the media frenzy that surrounded it. That frenzy and the absurdity it fostered in this unfortunate case is where Medium Face Productions’ JonBenet Murder Mystery Theater trolls for its humor.
The show opens with three JonBenets speaking to the audience from the afterlife – posing the question “Who killed me?” From there the play alternates between the Ramsey family discovering JonBenet’s body and trying to figure out what to do with it so they can get on to their DisneyLand vacation – all while hurling sexually-charged accusations at each other – and a TV reporter, Cougar Jones, who stalks the family’s house determined to discover the truth of the murder.
And they sing. Oh yes, they sing. The best moments of this show are its satirical folksy acoustic guitar-driven numbers about the Ramsey family’s bizarre (mostly sexual) idiosyncrasies. John is portrayed as a wonton pedophile, Patsy a jealous drunk and Burke a manic child who desperately wants to take JonBenet’s place in his father’s sexual favor.
The play is crass, irreverent, satirical, haphazard … and occasionally funny. Bob McSmith deadpans John Ramsey’s pedophilic obsession and Mary Croshie does a nice turn as a Stepford Wife who could be every bit as dangerous as her husband. April Kidwell as Cougar Jones even gets in on the singing, her best moment a fun song about possibly getting an STD from Geraldo Rivera (to the tune of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”). Tobly McSmith is frenetic to the point of grating as the sexually frustrated/confused Burke.
The best moment of the show is its closing number, the Avenue Q-reminiscent (and I’m paraphrasing the title) “Everybody Gets Molested Every Now and Then.”
So, who killed JonBenet Ramsey? JonBenet’s Murder Mystery Theater draws as many definitive conclusions as the real world legal system: none. It doesn’t add up to much, but it also doesn’t seem to intend to. It’s 50 minutes of camp, shock humor and dirty absurdity that seems, in some ways, the logical end for this story after churning through our contemporary news media machine for 16 years.