Fans of Masterpiece Theatre's hit show "Downton Abbey" and readers of Agatha Christie mysteries, and especially fans of great theatre, will absolutely love Kate Hess's one-woman show, "Murder Abbey." An alum of the Upright Citizen's Brigade, the talented young actress not only stars in the show but she is also the writer and creator. She's funny, she's quirky and more so she is downright talented, and make sure you loosen your corset for her show because it will make you bust some stitches.
This costume drama takes us back to the '20s, where the servants of a large estate are being murdered. Under the direction of Andrew Secunda, Hess shifts from character to character, all unique and impressive in their own way. Viewers of "Downton Abbey" will relish in seeing their favorite characters parodied on stage, and even those who have never seen an episode will enjoy the eccentricity that Hess exuberates.
There is an epileptic sister in denial of her disease, a dipsy flapper with a head full of useless information, a feminist free-living younger sister and maybe, just maybe, a big eyed secret sister who may (or may not) eat babies. Hess also does a great impression of Laura Linney, who introduces the show. Hess turns her into Linney-Bot, an unemotional shell of a human who made me see the popular actress through different eyes.
At the end of the show Hess shows us a slideshow of British celebrities that have infiltrated American society, all with red eyes and horns, while screaming an angry rant at the top of her lungs. It's especially entertaining if you know she is a big fan of the British themed dramas and Christie herself. British culture takes an unjustified beat down in "Murder Abbey" but it's all in good fun.
The costumes are simple considering that Hess must go through at least half a dozen changes, and do so very quickly at that. She manages to do so with enough finesse and ease that it seems almost effortless. At times you will forget that you are watching a one-woman show.
The production is a short one, running at just a little over half an hour. I would have liked to see more but I feel any more energy exerted by Miss Hess might kill her like one of the characters in her play.
"Murder Abbey" is an absolute must-see, it is hilarious, charming and highly impressive. Kate Hess is an absolute delight to watch and you definitely need to take a trip to the English countryside to see her... especially since murder is on the menu.
"Murder Abbey" plays through January 31 at the Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., in Los Angeles. For tickets and information, call 323-663-1525 or visit www.fountaintheatre.com.