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The Mysterious Cases of Mr. Pin

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The Mysterious Cases of Mr. Pin, Runamuck Productions, at Live Bait Theater. Mr. Pin's appearance may prompt remarks like "We don't see many waterfowl in these parts," but nothing daunts the brilliant detective who just happens to be a penguin. Recovering a priceless painting stolen from the Art Institute is all in a day's work, but can the hard-boiled (hard-frozen?) PI and his plucky assistant, Maggie, also catch the kidnappers of the Field Museum's dinosaur eggs, foil the gangsters demanding protection money from Smiling Sally's diner, and discover the identity of the person trying to frame Mr. Pin for attempted murder?

Adapters Heath Corson and Kathleen Collins have consolidated the adventures of the sweet-toothed sleuth, hero of Mary Elise Monsell's children's stories, into a remarkably complex hour-long narrative. Its multiple plotlines never become confusing or chaotic, however, thanks to Collins's sharp-edged staging and a cast that maintains its brisk pace without ever losing control of the material. Corson leads as the gumshoe gourmand--though the marathon prize goes to Roderick Lewis and Julie Partyka, who between them play a total of 11 characters, ranging from paleontologist Professer Femur to newshound Helen Whattastory. Not even a couple of grown-up gags (notably a parody of Casablanca) and Liz Conant's uninspired songs can slow the ensemble's momentum, which holds their youthful audience's attention until the finish, a madcap chase through a Lyric Opera performance and a thrilling rapier-and-umbrella duel.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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