Death & Taxes – Twits Try to Solve a Murder Case

Death and Taxes – Sunshine Brooks Theatre

A town council meeting can’t be much more fun than when the whole council is suspect in the murder of an out-of-towner. Pat Cook’s Death and Taxes, the current offering at Oceanside’s Sunshine Brooks Theatre, involves the audience in the search for the murderer.

Prolific playwright Cook, with over 125 published plays, has written 24 whodunit murder mysteries. The playwright has merged satire, farce, and several other genres of humor in Death and Taxes.

The city council of Hendrix, a small backwoods town no state would lay claim to, is investigating the murder of a stranger. A stranger whom nobody admits seeing, but all have met. We, the audience, are the town folks. We are given the opportunity to ask these rubes questions regarding the city, the reenactment of the crime, and their general ineptitude.

Mayor Kathleen Lyles (Lois Sprays) tries, ineffectively, to bring order to the chaos of the meeting. Probably the world’s most inept sheriff, Wesley Thorne (Ryan Lee) has zero investigative skills. Town Clerk, Lydia Kleft (Talia Davis*), somehow finished her lower education without any benefit of acquired knowledge. The editor of the weekly, or is that weakly rag, Eddie King (Aaron Derwin) is quite a few pages short of a tabloid and doesn’t even carry a writing instrument.

If this wasn’t enough of a motley crew, there is Cora Sedgwick (Toni Perrine). Cora, who discovered the body – and possibly more – stepped on a rake in the yard and got hit by the handle, which jarred what little brains she had left. Then there are the Johansons, Mattie and Carl (Chanel Hennessey and Rick Lee), who spend so much time squabbling it is impossible for them to learn anything about the crime. The only one with any apparent intelligence is old Doc Bishop (Fred Hanrahan). Doc at least had an autopsy performed on the body. The toxicology results, refuting Sheriff Thorne’s claim that it was a natural death, showed death by poisoning.

Leave it, quite naturally, to a drama teacher, Evelyn Martindale (Sharon Kloosterman) to bring organization to the investigation. By the time she was done with her in-depth questioning and incisive analysis, there was total confusion in the audience. This was the time that we all turned in our nomination for the evil killer. In the large audience, only one member identified the perp accurately.

This is just a fun show so far over the top that over-acting became the norm and any attempt at normalcy was frowned upon. Well, not totally! The relationship of the Johansons was comedically quite natural. Hennessey was flip to Lee. She slapped him around and he took it. They got some of the biggest laughs, but there were enough laughs going around to please the whole cast. At intermission, the townspeople (us) were invited on to the stage to investigate the crime scene. Some great clues, all terribly misleading.

Death and Taxes is just plain fun. It is a bit silly. It is a bit strange. It is a bit illogical. It is a laugh-filled evening.

*Ms. Davis was filling in for Tiffany Fuller on the night we saw Death and Taxes.


Lois Sprays, Sharon Kloosterman, Aaron Derwin, Talia Davis, Ryan Lee, Rick Lee, Toni Perrine, Fred Hanrahan,

Technical Staff

Set Design John Kalb, Costume Design Yolanda Kalb, Costumes/Prop Crew Yolanda Kalb & Mary Bentley, Make-up Coordinator Mary Freeman

Total Rating: Two Stars

Genre: Murder Mystery

Author: Pat Cook

Director: John and Yolanda Kalb

Date Reviewed: February 2, 2008

Dates: Weekends, January 25 to February 10, 2008

Theater Company New Vision Theatre Company

Sunshine Brooks Theatre

217 Coast Highway

Oceanside, California

Box Office Phone: (760) 529-9140

Running Time: 116 minutes with a 15-minute intermission

Robert Hitchcox is a playwright, critic and fiction author, who reviews live theatre.