subscribe: Posts | Comments

Well-dressed Rob Green draws in audience as Riddle Key murderer


On stage through October 7 in the Foulds Theatre at the Alliance for the Arts is Theatre Conspiracy’s production of Jeffrey Hatcher’s Murderers. The action takes place in an upscale retirement community in Riddle, Florida where death has a gate pass, designated parking space and a cot in the infirmary. But at Riddle Key Retirement Center, only a few of the Grim Reaper’s house calls result from natural causes. That’s because there’s murder afoot and the culprits are anything but the usual suspects.

The first is the dapper Gerald Halverston, one of Riddle’s more youthful residents. Rob Green gives a command performance in the role, and as he recounts to the audience the circumstances that led him to commit homicide, it becomes clear that he’s as much a victim as a killer.

Gerald, you see, has a live-in love by the name of June. June’s mother is wealthy. In fact, her estate is worth a whopping $5 million, which makes her one of the 13,000 wealthiest people in the entire United States! But mom’s just been diagnosed with end-stage renal failure and has only six to eight weeks to live. While at first blush it appears that June is about to inherit a boat load of real estate, stocks and other assets, mom’s lawyer delivers the bad news that old Uncle Sam’s going to take a $2 million (or 40 percent) bite out of the estate in the form of estate taxes. Wait, it gets worse. Because mom doesn’t have $2 million in cash just laying around, June will be compelled to sell off stocks and other assets to pay the estate tax bill, and that will trigger another $2 million in capital gains taxes, selling commissions and related costs leaving poor poor June with just $1 million at the end of the day.

Under the Republican tax bill enacted last December, only estates with a value exceeding $11,180,000 in 2018 are subject to estate tax. But neither the playwright nor Theatre Conspiracy opted to update the play to make sense under current law. That’s okay. It’s clear from the staging and monologues that the play takes place back in 2005, when the Tax Code only gave estates a $1,500,00 exemption from the estate tax. Fortunately, only audience members who are CPAs, tax lawyers of estate planners would pick up on playwright Jeffrey Hatcher’s math error. Given the $1,500,000 estate tax exemption, only $3,500,000 of mom’s estate would have been subject to estate taxes, meaning that the tax due would be under $1.6 million.

Okay, okay, perhaps I’m quibbling here. Grieving daughter June would still have to sell off a good chunk of mom’s assets to come up with the cash to pay an estate tax bill of $1.5 or 1.6 million. But June wouldn’t have to also ante up a sizable sum in capital gains taxes. That’s because another section of the Tax Code states that beneficiaries of an estate get a fair-market-value basis in assets they inherit. So instead of looking at $4 million in taxes, commissions and probate fees, June’s actual costs would have been less than half of that.

But people have been known to do some crazy things to save even $2 million in taxes, wouldn’t you concede?

In 1934, a judge by the name of Learned Hand wrote in a famous tax case that “any one may so arrange his affairs that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which will best pay the Treasury; there is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes.” June’s mom and Gerald take that advice to heart. They formulate a bold two-step plan. First, mom will marry Gerald so that her entire $5 million estate qualifies for the unlimited estate tax marital deduction. Then after mom dies, Gerald and June will marry so that he can transfer the estate to her without incurring either estate or gift taxes.

What could go wrong?

Well, after their nuptials, Gerald and his blushing bride retire to Riddle Key to wait out her end of days. But eight weeks later, mom is still going strong. In fact, she’s gaining weight and has more energy than she’s enjoyed in years. Riddle Key’s in-house physician runs some tests and gives Gerald the good news. His wife’s doctor back home read the labs wrong. Sure, she has renal disease, but with daily dialysis and proper diet, exercise and medication, she’ll live for years.

And it is at this point in his monologue, that Rob Green really draws the audience in. Does he tell her and get an annulment? Does he sue the doctor and the lawyer for malpractice? Or does he conceal the diagnosis/prognosis and let wifie-poo expire of natural causes ….

More cannot be said without giving away the ending – although audiences will discover to their inestimable pleasure that there are more twists and turns in the remaining plot of “The Well Dressed Man is a Murderer” than Norway’s serpentine Altanterhavsveien.

Green has been steadily upping his game since returning to the stage in Lab Theater’s production on Lanford Wilson’s Burn This in February of 2017. Since then, Rob’s impressed, stunned, staggered and wowed local theater-goers with performances in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane: A Parody of the Horror (where he portrayed Blanche Hudson, a part made famous by Joan Crawford), An Act of God (he was abused archangel Gabriel) and Every Brilliant Thing (in which he played a boy who copes with his mother’s attempted suicide by listing everything that makes life special from ice cream and things with stripes to “the prospect of dressing up as a Mexican wrestler”). The common denominator in all these performances is his uncanny ability to convert his audience from spectators into friends and family members who want nothing more and will settle for nothing less than to give him a warm, protective hug and let him know that everything’s going to be alright.

Rob’s other credits include Hal Robinson in The Graduate, Biff Loman in Death of a Salesman, and parts in Miss Witherspoon, Polish Joke, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Picasso at the Lapin Agile.

If Rob’s time away from theater taught him anything, it’s a greater appreciation of the relationships he’s made both within and outside the theater community.

“Thank you to my family of amazing artists, obsessed directors, gleeful volunteers, delighted patrons, talented team members, understanding co-workers and all of our many friends for their continuous work, love and support for the arts in Southwest Florida,” says Rob.

Rob’s looking forward to sharing his homicidal tendencies with you in Murderers. But hurry to the Alliance. The show closes this weekend.

October 3, 2018.




Comments are closed.