Image courtesy of Jennifer Hodges | The Scientists, just two of the many characters under threat in the upcoming Lesser Known Players production of “27 Short Plays About Being Murdered in a Hotel by ABBA: a Play.”

Image courtesy of Jennifer Hodges | The Scientists, just two of the many characters under threat in the upcoming Lesser Known Players production of “27 Short Plays About Being Murdered in a Hotel by ABBA: a Play.”

Absurdist ABBA: Lesser Known Players mount puzzling pop-inspired whodunit

A series of bizarre crimes pit two Swedish detectives, a pair of polar opposite partners, against a fearsome foursome of internationally famous musical murderers racking up a rising body count — maybe.

Maybe not.

No, it’s not the latest Nordic noir thriller à la the Stieg Larsson school of literature. It’s William Razavi’s “27 Short Plays About Being Murdered in a Hotel by ABBA: a Play,” a revival of which is being staged by Bainbridge Island’s Lesser Known Players in a two-weekend run starting at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 10 at Rolling Bay Hall (10598 Valley Road NE).

Think you know the truth about ABBA? Think again.

Think you know the truth about anything? Think again!

Because the Swedish pop sensation is reuniting for a tour you’ll never forget — if you survive it at all, that is.

Watch as detectives Asta and Greta (Stephanie Turcotte and Dawn Janow, respectively) struggle to make sense of a series of crimes in which the evidence points to a most illogical conclusion, in a show which features a zany cast of characters including a mad scientist, a motivational speaker, an itinerant citrus salesman, an illusionist, two British blue-bloods and a young samurai warrior, who all meet their fates — or again, maybe not — at the same hotel (but is it really?) in an alchemy of the absurd that combines philosophy, literature, cinematic references, weaponry, and music directed by Jennifer Hodges and Amanda Pease.

ABBA is, in many ways, a strange group — somehow both ubiquitous, successful and often dismissed — perfectly suited to be the basis for such a strange play, Hodges said.

And, with at least two Kitsap County performance groups set to stage productions of the much better known ABBA-inspired show “Mamma Mia!” this year, the time seemed at last ideal for “27 Short Plays About Being Murdered in a Hotel by ABBA: a Play.” Good thing, too, as Hodges, the group’s executive director, said she’d been sitting on this one for a while.

“It was actually one of the first plays we considered doing when we formed our group,” Hodges said. “It’s kind of a modern theater of the absurd … with ABBA as sort of the unexpected and unusual mechanism of death throughout.

“It’s actually really intricate,” she explained. “There’s a lot of levels operating. Just the silly thing of having ABBA come killing people is funny, but there’s also a through line of the relationship between the detective characters, and there’s a lot of existential philosophy in it.”

And murder; there’s a lot of murder in it, too.

And fighting, so much so that the show employs an actual fight choreographer, Kristopher Jones, who also plays ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus. Solomia Bishko plays Agnetha Fältskog, Amanda Pease is Anni-Frid Lyngstad, and Jon Brenner is Benny Andersson, and also the composer of the show’s suitably dark ABBA-inspired original score.

“There’s a lot of music within it, and these very funny one-liners,” Janow said.

Comedy, both the quippy rim-shot sort and the philosophically absurdist Kafkaesque kind run amok throughout.

“If you think about 27 short plays as vignettes, you’re getting a glimpse into life that happens throughout ABBA time,” Turcotte said. “You’ll see the two detectives trying to make their way and understand what’s going on as well, and they have two opposing views so you’ll see the conflict between ABBA as a band and then the conflict between the two detectives as well.”

This is no tough girl-cop friendship fable, though. In fact, the pragmatic depiction of the two 40-plus leading ladies was one of the aspects of the story that most attracted the actors.

“There’s no love issue,” Janow said. “We’re detectives; we’re not lovers or sex objects or any of those things.”

And as for the bandmates themselves? They’re the real deal, sort of.

“These characters are roughly based on the personas that we’ve seen through the interviews,” Jones said. “And a little bit is shuffled in there from their concerts, so you kind of get that fun, playful feeling of ABBA with just slight hints of ‘Oh, this is who they really are,’ plus a little bit of the existential thoughts of what these people could be going through as they’re performing all these crazy actions and acts in these hotel rooms.”

The show runs about 100 minutes, with intermission, and is recommended for those 13-and-older only due to some darker subject matter — and, you know, all the of the murders.

The playwright himself will actually be in town for the show, and is set to attend all three opening weekend performances, also sticking around for a chat after.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 10; Saturday, May 11; Friday, May 17; and Saturday, May 18; plus shows at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 12 and Sunday, May 19.

Tickets, $15 each for students, seniors and veterans, $20 general admission, are available now via www.brownpapertickets.com (event #418842, or search “Lesser Known Players”).

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