The Family Crow: A Murder Mystery, presented by The Pucking Fuppet Co. and Eldritch Theatre, is a ghoulish, screwball delight from start to finish. Created and performed by puppeteer Adam Francis Proulx, the show fosters a giddy sense of communal intrigue and appreciation. Even as we laugh at them, we are seduced by the familiar mystery tropes. It is goofy, self-aware, deliberately low-tech spectacle yet we gasp and guffaw and are genuinely invested in who-dun-it?
Horatio P. Corvis, self-appointed Sorter Outer of Murders, is a crow. And the murder he sorts out here involves a murder (of crows). He speaks directly to us, gives us fair warning of all such groan-worthy puns that are in store for us as the plot unfolds. There will much play on the word crow, the double meaning of murder and an abundance of fowl (foul) linguistic silliness.
Corvis has a nifty perch affixed to Proulx’s hat. In the intimate Red Sandcastle Theatre, the mechanics of his operation are on full display yet he’s very real to us. Proulx plays up the artifice; rather than diminishing the overall charm, this enhances it. As narrator, Corvis takes us into his confidence and shares the grand joke all the while maintaining a certain campy dignity.
Proulx also portrays the members of the Crow family—suspects in the murder of the eldest son, Russell Crow (heh heh). The whole lot have such delightfully cringe-inducing names. Their characterizations are simple yet vivid and Proulx conveys their unique colours in tell-tale vocal affectations. His leaps between them are fluid, dynamic and somewhat breathtaking.
The threadbare aesthetic is scrappy and immersive. Kathleen Black’s set, a stylish mess of tangled ropes and cables, conjures a theatrically creepy nest. Costume designer Jessica Smith has given Proulx’s cloak a plume of feathers to help establish the birdy vibes. Alexander Baerg offers up some gothic ambiance with a variety of hammy musical stings. Throughout, director Byron Laviolette nurtures this giddy self-awareness and imbues it with low-key majesty.
Proulx’s love of the mystery genre resonates. His story, though poking fun at every opportunity, honours the suspense, eccentric characters and delicious reveals that define the classics. As he scampers about—operating his own crude lighting effects, lampshading all the familiar conceits—I was completely swept up in this facetious yarn and his intense showmanship.