On an ocean liner crossing from New York to Southampton, England, malicious archconservative radio gossip columnist Mason Armstrong is shot down during a midnight promenade on deck. The suspects include a dim-witted movie star (Brian Ames), who spends his days shooting albatross, and his manager (Richard Leppig), who's rumored to be having what in truth would be an improbable affair with the star, a blonde chanteuse named Bernadette (Maureen Ganz). Then there's a fourth-rate comedian named Rudy Tudy (Barry Schwam), who spouts endless, bad one-liners; a mysterious widow (Rosina Pinchot); and Armstrong's formidable, red-baiting assistant (understudy Christine Soldate). The ship's captain (Richard Large) enlists the aid of honeymooning detective Mordecai Pierce (writer-actor Jack Chansler) and his new bride, Teresa (Joanna Houghton), to help solve the crime. Chansler's script is set in 1953, but it would have seemed dated even then, and it's hard to care about his tissue-paper characters. Even Detective Pierce is a sexist homophobe. The only remotely sympathetic figures are the detective's wife, and the elderly widow who's still mourning the death of her screenwriter husband, driven to suicide by the Hollywood blacklist. There's little or no suspense (who cares whodunit?), and even less probability. The Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30; thru Feb. 21. (626) 256-3809 or www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Starts: Jan. 16. Continues through Feb. 21, 2009