McGuinn and Murry are a pair of gumshoes waiting in their dusty office for a case in McGuinn & Murry, a takeoff on 1940s film noir. No one has enlisted their services for years, though, and so they make up hypothetical mysteries to pass the time. Murry comes up with a real doozy, a plot that, as she says, "folds in on itself in a self-reflective manner": She sends a letter to McGuinn's home, purportedly from his lover, urging him to get rid of his wife, Budgie. Unfortunately, it's Budgie who opens the letter and — intrigued rather than distressed — promptly starts plotting with her own far-from-hypothetical lover against her husband. Stumbling home drunk, McGuinn finds himself in an unexpected fight with his wife — and subsequently in the middle of a case that he believes is real and in which he appears to be the main suspect.
All kinds of misunderstandings, complications and witticisms follow as other characters enter the mix: a crooning chanteuse, a sexy barmaid, a wheezing mafioso don — every one of them played by Erik Edborg and Erin Rollman, who also portray McGuinn and Murry. Among other things, this production is an exercise in creative transformation, as Edborg and Rollman change from character to character with only tiny adjustments in clothing, voice pitch and physicality. The set is a wonder of low-tech but high-concept ingenuity: a large desk that morphs into the McGuinns' kitchen, Sweeney's Lounge, a park corner, a boxing ring and every other locale the story requires. The show plays around with scale as well. For one climactic scene, the actors manipulate Matchbox cars on a miniature set, narrating and switching personae with dizzying skill and speed.
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First staged by this troupe four years ago, McGuinn & Murry is a light, funny, fizzy piece that showcases the Buntporters' inventiveness, their ability to create intelligent scripts collaboratively and from scratch, to make theater magic out of almost nothing — just a few objects, a lot of talent, and even more creativity and dedication. Now that creativity is being seriously tested. On the eve of their eighth season — which they promise will be their best ever — this group of Colorado College grads have encountered a financial crisis. To comply with city regulations, they need to install a ventilation system in the large half-warehouse they rent, as well as make other improvements that will run a total of around $46,000.
According to company member SamAnTha Schmitz, the group has been in contact with Denver officials all along without being asked to do much more than install "a drinking fountain and a mop sink" — until now. "It's kind of gut-wrenching," she says.
Buntport has a unique place in the ecology of Denver theater. The company is dedicated to mounting affordable, experimental, entertaining work. It has a devoted and ever-growing audience, and has come up with a number of original ideas for attracting viewers who might not be regular theater-goers: a long-running sitcom, now concluded; movie nights; a children's show called TRUNks; Starship Troy, a spoof space odyssey that will be back for an encore in September; and Teacher's Pet, regular evenings at which audience members present monologues on specific themes. Buntport is also the Denver host for the international phenomenon Pecha Kucha, monthly sessions when creative people present their ideas in swiftly moving slide shows (twenty slides, twenty seconds each). Buntport's fundraising is pretty creative, too: The troupe has sold conscious coffee and handed out plastic piggies for supporters to take home and fill with change. And somehow, while still keeping prices affordable, it has managed to thrive through a combination of ticket revenues, donations, grants and fundraisers (one is slated for June 7), and even pay its members regular salaries.
"This is a dream job," Schmitz says. "To come in and say, 'Let's do this,' and have five other people say, 'Yes, let's figure out how.'" And let's hope the many fans who've enjoyed the results of these cogitations will help Buntport keep going.