The Biggest Mystery On Broadway

Sep 06


Okay, so it’s technically off-Broadway, just around the corner at 50th, but let’s not quibble. The point is that this play has been around (in various locations in Manhattan) for 24 years — the longest run of a non-musical in history. And yet, you probably have never heard of it, much less seen it.
It’s called:


And it’s a mystery to me.

I hadn’t known about the play until last Saturday night when I became an eye witness, AKA member of the audience. And now I’m really puzzled.

Hey, I have credentials. I read a lot of Agatha Christie in my youth, Ruth Rendell and Josephine Tey even now, and love Sherlock Holmes in all his many incarnations. I watch every episode of Mystery on PBS (Don’t you love Inspector Lewis and Sergeant Hathaway especially — admit it — Hathaway?) and I usually guess whodunnit before the end, although my reasons for spotting the culprit are sometimes, shall we say, suspect.  “She’s the only one who seems innocent, so it must be her” is not exactly what Sir Conan Doyle would call sound deductive reasoning. Works, though.

Remember those interactive mystery plays that were so popular? I once won a prize for the most original solution to the mystery: I guessed that the victim hadn’t been murdered at all, but had  committed suicide, having plotted to implicate everyone else as revenge for whatever crimes they had committed against her.

Professionally, I was a producer of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books, and to prepare for that august role (It’s harder than it looks: I was even invited to the truly august Mystery Writer’s of America), I took a course in mystery writing which clued me in as to what makes for a really good whodunit.

And the answer to that is . . .


There are a number of theories, but here’s my favorite:
When you get to the end, you slap your forehead and say, Of course, that’s it! I should have guessed! The solution was right in front of my nose, and if I had sorted out the clues, I would have figured it out.

By this standard, Perfect Crime is far from perfect.

When we got to the end, I slapped my forehead and said, What the ?#@?#!!  I got some of it, but it wasn’t until I got home and went to the site, which, frankly, I enjoyed more than the play, did I understand the whole thing. More or less. After I read the 18 point explanation several times.

Okay, nothing’s perfect. And there are some interesting things about this production.

It starts with a bang, literally, and involves a rich husband who may or may not have been murdered, and a psychotic who’s gotten away with several murders but wants to go out with s bang himself by being named the Baseball Ball Bat Killer, which he is not. There’s also a snoopy cook we never see, a pesky policeman we see a lot of but can’t hear (the actor is cute but can’t project), and a mysterious patient we only hear on tape, who keeps telling us that she’s left one clue, although we don’t know to what.

You know, the usual suspects.

Of course, the most interesting thing about Perfect Crime (Hey, they couldn’t call it “Pretty Good Crime,” could they?) is that it’s been going on for 24 years, and that the lead, a psychiatrist and bestselling author, has been played all that time (all that time!) by the same woman (the same woman!), Catherine Russell, who has only missed four performances, presumably to give birth or have major surgery.

She’s also a producer of the show, and has been known to collect tickets at the door. The night we saw Perfect Crime, some lesser, but very friendly, personage was collecting the tickets. It was the Performance #9,967, but who’s counting.

I figure that with 8 performances a week, if you catch this show about a month from now, you could be at the 10,000th performance, which would put the show in the Guinness Book of World Records except that it already is. Wonder if they’ll pass out mementos, like fake guns or crucifixes or slices of Sara Lee cake.

Whoops! I almost gave away the plot, sort of.  And I don’t want to tell you any more, because in spite of all the above, I think you should see this to show.


It’s an urban legend, for Pete’s sake, and will make good cocktail party conversation. Besides, you’ll never score tickets for The Book of Mormon (you haven’t got a prayer) and Perfect Crime will only set you back about 40 bucks. That leaves enough in the budget to go have a martini or three after the show and ask yourself questions about the play, life, and whether you should get extra olives.

Its still all a mystery to me.

One comment

  1. This is magnificent writing, friend.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *