In London, it's The Mousetrap; in New York, it's Perfect Crime. NYC's little mystery thriller that could will celebrate its 15th year Off Broadway April 18, clearing performance number 5788. (Perfect Crime became the longest-running non-musical play in New York history four years ago when it surpassed Life With Father's 3224.)
For 3095 of those performances in a row, one person would be sure to be found at the theatre — A Perfect Crime's star and general manager Catherine Russell, who has spent half of her life since 21 in the show. Crime's mainstay from the April 18, 1987 opening onward, Russell has missed only four performances in 15 years, both times to serve in her siblings' weddings. Her record swamps the closest contender, Marian Seldes, who, in Deathtrap, another thriller, logged 1,809 consecutive shows on Broadway. Not only does Russell play the sexy psychiatrist Margaret Thorne Brent, accused of murdering her husband, but she takes tickets, plunges toilets and teaches classes, both undergraduate acting at New York University and a drama program for male adolescents at Riker's Island Correctional Facility. As if that were not enough to keep her busy, she sometimes appears in other Off-Broadway shows whose schedules fit with her Crime gig.
While never losing Russell, A Perfect Crime has gone through some 639,018 bullets, 154 guns, hired 151 actors for the cast of five and moved nine times, according to the Debenham-Smythe press office. Among the houses that have witnessed Crime were Theatre Four and the Forty Seventh Street Theatre before the show settled six years ago into the former "Paris Burlesque," a Times Square strip joint shut down in 1991 for harboring prostitution. The 165 seater was then renovated, renamed the Duffy Theatre and reopened by Russell and Crime executive producer Armand Hyatt as an Off-Broadway theatre (actually located on Broadway by special permission from Actor's Equity).
Currently in the cast are "Petticoat Junction's" Michael Minor as the detective, Brian Hotaling as Margaret's patient, Peter Ratray as Margaret's husband and Patrick Robustelli as the local cable TV show host.
A Perfect Crime, written by Warren Manzi and directed by Jeffrey Hyatt, is a traditional mystery thriller with a sexy, probably guilty psychiatrist wife accused of bumping off her wealthy, sickly husband. A detective, assigned to the case, seeks to discover who murdered the husband, if he was murdered at all, while fending off the wife's seductions and her crazed, cross-dressing patient. Tickets to A Perfect Crime are $35. The Duffy Theatre is located at 46th and Broadway in Times Square.
-- By Christine Ehren