New East Village show ‘Who Murdered Love?’ offers a ‘psychedelic’ twist of a mystery musical

East Village theater presents "Who Murdered Love?"
Cast and crew of “Who Murdered Love” backstage at The Theater for the New City: Seated, L-R: Amy Catherine Welch, William Broderick, Lissa Moira, Alisa Ermolaev, Jef Canter. Standing, L-R: Louisa Bradshaw, John David West, Olivia Palacios, Lafayette Elizabeth Orsack, Peter Dizozza, Rori Nagee, Chase Wolfe, Sage Buchalter, Ejyp Johnson
Photo by Bob Krasner

“Who Murdered Love?” may sound like an existential question for our time, but in this case it’s the theatrical product of Lissa Moira and Richard West.

They took the germ of an idea regarding the rivalry of the Dadaists and the Surrealists and produced a “Surreal Noir Dadaist Mystery Musical”, in the words of Moira. And if that’s not enough, “it has a psychedelic atmosphere as well,” she adds.

Working with West, who she names as her “partner in life, love and art,” they have come up with an amusing and ambitious pastiche of styles.

One starts to get the idea of what they’re up to pretty quickly just scanning the characters’ names. You’ve got the detective Sleepy Sam Speed, his assistant Gail Friday, the blonde bombshell client Honey Potts, the artists André Ranton and Darcel Du Camp, as well as the elusive titular character DaDa Love.

The whole thing had been percolating for 14 years now, when Moira and West first mounted the show at the Theater for the New City, where it is playing once again but in a much changed form.

Who Murdered Love? in the East Village
The dream’s dream: The Countess ( Louisa Bradshaw,standing ) letting out her feelings about DaDa Love ( Ejyp Johnson, center)Photo by Bob Krasner
All in a Dream…..Amy Catherine Welch, Jef Canter, Ejyp Johnson, Sage BuchalterPhoto by Bob Krasner
Gail Friday (Rori Nogee ) gets the story from Honey Potts (Alisa Ermolaev)Photo by Bob Krasner
Safe Buchalter backstagePhoto by Bob Krasner
Ejyp Johnson , ready to inhabit the titular character Dada LovePhoto by Bob Krasner

While some things have stayed the same — Louisa Bradshaw is again playing the Countess Analise, a part that Moira wrote specifically for her — the show has bloomed musically with the addition of a lot more tunes. The numbers are a combo of Moira’s lyrics and West’s melodies, with some additional melodic contributions from Bradshaw, Gregory Nissen and Peter Dizozza, who also serves as music director and piano accompanist.

Numbers range from “Oh No She’s A Blonde” to “Green Fairy,” described by Moira as a “psychedelic madrigal.”

“In most musicals the songs push the plot forward, “ Moira notes. “But many of these songs serve to deepen the characters. I’m using the songs for dramatic effect.”

The drama and witty repartée is presented by a well chosen group, as Moira tells us that “I have an amazing cast — I’m thrilled with everyone!”

The actors have been seen on Broadway, Netflix, the Steve Harvey Show, Carnegie Hall, network television, American Idol, national touring companies and feature films while some have written their own films and musicals.

Music Director Peter Dizozza during rehearsalPhoto by Bob Krasner
Chase Wolfe modelling for Amy Catherine WelchPhoto by Bob Krasner
Louisa Bradshaw makes the best of her solo number, which she co-wrote with Gregory Nissen and Lissa MoiraPhoto by Bob Krasner
There stands the flask……Sleepy Sam Speed (John David West).gets contemplative and his Gail Friday (Rori Nogee ) gets an earfulPhoto by Bob Krasner
Louisa Bradshaw backstage as The Countess AnalisePhoto by Bob Krasner
Alisa Ermolaev backstage with her next lookPhoto by Bob Krasner

Moira, a playwright, screenwriter, director, artist and poet and West, a writer, musician and actor have impressive resumes as well, having written and produced — separately and together — numerous successful Off-Off-Broadway shows such as “Sexual Psychobabble” and “The Best Sex of the XX Century Sale.”

The whole shebang is not without some serious undertones, as Moira explains. “One of the things that we are trying to say in it is, what hope is there for the world if sensitive artists with elevated sensibilities, like the Dadaists and the Surrealists, are sniping at each others backs ? If we can’t care for each other, how can everyone else?”

“Who Murdered Love?” runs through Feb. 19 at the Theater for the New City. More info here: theaterforthenewcity.net/shows/who-murdered-love-2023