Body double


Gabriel Montoya and Trish DeBaun in Woodland Opera House’s production of <i>Corpse</i>: “Your rent money, or prepare to experience my evil sleeper necktie hold from hell!”

Gabriel Montoya and Trish DeBaun in Woodland Opera House’s production of Corpse: “Your rent money, or prepare to experience my evil sleeper necktie hold from hell!”

Rated 4.0

The bodies keep stacking up like firewood. But in a curious twist, there are more bodies than victims in the comedy thriller Corpse, Woodland Opera House’s newest production. This clever farce is more of a who-it-was-done-to than a whodunit, as mistaken identities and double-murdered victims set out to confuse both the murderer and the audience.

The story of two twins who become bloody brothers takes place in 1936 London, during the abdication of King Edward VIII. The twins, polar opposites in manner and position, share a hatred of each other and their mysterious father who abandoned them.

We are first introduced to poor Evelyn (Gabriel Montoya), a down-on-his-luck unemployed actor living in a dank Soho basement apartment.

The thespian enters his crumbling abode dressed as a woman, and proceeds to empty his garments of gourmet items lifted from the upscale grocery store.

Watching with delight is his rent-hungry landlady Mrs. McGee (Trish DeBaun), who’s willing to stall rent payments in exchange for grocery items, and Evelyn’s affections and alcohol.

In the same city, though in the upscale Regent’s Park neighborhood, lives Evelyn’s ultra-sophisticated twin Rupert, who laps up luxury thanks to the family inheritance. Thus the bad blood between the duo, with Evelyn’s determination to outwit and outlive his brother. Actually, his plan is to become his brother after seemingly being murdered himself, with the help of a bumbling mysterious man-for-hire Major Powell (Terry Kolkey). But, gasp, havoc ensues when plans go asunder and look-alike brothers go under, again and again.

Corpse is an actor’s dream—not only does Montoya get to play both a woman and a man as the overly dramatic Jon Lovitz-like thespian Evelyn; he also gets to turn the tables on himself as the urbane twin Rupert. And what makes this play so fun is through tricks and sleight-of-body, he gets to play both brothers in the same scenes.

It’s a funny and energetic performance by Montoya, though many of his lines during the first act were hard to understand due to his sometimes rushed delivery and the theater’s dubious acoustics. (There are headphones, dubbed “listening devices,” provided free of charge for patrons needing hearing assistance.) But by the second half, his performance fell into stride, and his ping-pong portrayal as the unlikely brothers was a delight to witness.

The supporting cast of DeBaun, Kolkey and Earl Victorine as a neighborhood bobby, provided Montoya a good base to play off, including an old-fashioned sword fight between Kolkey and Montoya. Credit also goes to director Dick Mangrum, who not only has to keep the action and comedy on target, he also must choreograph body-switching scenes and role-switching actors with utmost precision.