Whose Body?, Lifeline Theatre. A powerful financier is missing, and an anonymous corpse has been found in a bathtub. It’s up to amateur detective Lord Peter Wimsey–along with his mother, his valet, and Inspector Parker of Scotland Yard–to discover the whereabouts of the former and the identity of the latter and catch the bloke wot done the dirty deed.
Superior sleuths have never been as popular in America as they are in countries boasting a leisure class with little to do but meddle. Lifeline’s adaptation of this Dorothy L. Sayers whodunit owes its success not only to Frances Limoncelli’s clean, concise script but to actor Peter Greenberg’s ability to make us take seriously a wealthy layabout who, if it weren’t for occasional nightmares associated with his wartime experiences, could easily have come off as a Wodehousian caricature.
Nor is this a one-man show. Marssie Mencotti delivers a scene-stealing performance as Wimsey’s unflappable mother, the Duchess, while James E. Grote deftly sidesteps cliche in his portrayal of the valet. Thanks to dialect coach Ann Wakefield, the entire ensemble–including four other actors playing 14 characters–enunciate their lines with crystalline clarity. Director Dorothy Milne sets a brisk pace, and everyone nimbly navigates Alan Donahue’s ingeniously protean set: a single piece of furniture becomes at different times a chaise longue, a courtroom bench, the fatal bath fixture, and an exhumed coffin.