Political cartoonist and playwright Jules Feiffer's wickedly dark comedy Little Murders is set in 1960s New York City at a point when the Newquist family is reluctantly acknowledging changing times. Their crisis in confidence reaches such a dismal low point they even abandon denial as a coping mechanism. Projecting anxiety about his own sexually ambiguous name, Carol Newquist obsesses that daughter Patsy serially dates closeted gay men, all while he struggles not to recognize his son Kenny's homosexuality. But Patsy pushes him over the edge when she announces plans to marry something even more alarming: a nihilist. As a last ditch effort to remedy the atheism, Carol confides in his future son-in-law, Alfred, that he doesn't believe in God either; he believes in institutions, and they must be preserved for the good of society. It's one of the many humorous and doomed last stands various family members attempt as the world changes around them.
Cripple Creek Theater recently completed a run of Little Murders at AllWays Lounge, and under Andrea Carlin's direction, the cast reveled in the work's outrageous humor, segued effortlessly into Feiffer's pointed philosophical jags and rendered despairing revelations with gripping intensity. As Patsy, Emilie Whelan exuded buoyant cheer while wrestling with her weakling brother, dragging Alfred (Andrew Farrier) into the institution of marriage, and hoping to change the nihilist's emotionless persona. Realizing his attempts to avoid pain and disappointment were a more extreme version of her family's modes of denial, she prepared to join him in the abyss — just as he found his way out. The many ironies of the family's catharsis were funny and bleak, making the offbeat comedy a challenging story to balance.
Entertaining performances included Jackson Townsend as the blustering Carol Newquist, Farrier as the rescued nihilist and Ian Hoch as the perplexed atheistic Reverend Dupas. Cripple Creek closed its season with a very strong show and will return in September. — Will Coviello