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‘Program for Murder’ Opens off-Broadway

November 23, 1992

NEW YORK (AP) _ Murder mysteries have to keep up with the times. The butler did it? Households don’t have butlers now. What do they have? Oh, yes. The computer did it.

″Program for Murder,″ which opened Sunday at the off-Broadway Variety Arts Theater, stars Jeremy (Anthony Cummings), computer wizard. He devised a computer game which made a lot of money. His then-wife Elizabeth (Mary Kay Adams) programmed it. Now he has devised a computerized talking encyclopedia. His girlfriend Brenda (Colleen Quinn) programmed it.

But Jeremy doesn’t like to share royalties. So he next devises a nasty little plan in which the computer will tell both these women to do things which will get them electrocuted. He programs it himself. And it works. End of Act 1.

Act 1 is clever and fun but the test of this kind of play is its Act 2. Will Jeremy get away with it? Will he cross his circuits and be brought low? Will he kill again? Can authors George W. George and Jeff Travers make us care?

George and Travers haven’t been able to build up much tension in Act 2. That’s possibly because audiences are willing to believe almost anything about computers.

Jeremy had programmed his computer so that its voice said it thinks. Now, when it says to Jeremy that it really has learned to think, the audience calmly accepts that. One just doesn’t get emotionally involved with a thinking machine. One isn’t even horrified, despite the feeling one should be.

Stephen Van Benschoten played Jeremy’s agent; Jon Krupp was another computer hacker, and Jill Susan Margolis his next girlfriend. All the acting was good. Allen Schoer directed. Edward Gianfrancesco designed a living room with a beautiful wooden stairway, a sink, a computer and its wall-filling innards. Dick Feldman and Ralph Roseman in association with Frederick M. and Patricia Supper produced.

″Program for Murder″ is for theatergoers who like their murder mysteries to be fluffy rather than fearsome.

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