Suspects in the murder of one decomposing composer are the clarinet (“everyone knows reed instruments are sneaky”), the bass (“tired of playing the boring parts”), and the flute (“angry about having to act like birds.”) Responsible for seeing justice done is one hook-nosed inspector with a notebook and an unfortunate proclivity for accidentally snapping off the corpse’s left hand.
Better known as Lemony Snicket, Daniel Handler is an irreverent Bay Area celebrity whose delightfully wrong sense of humor makes him entirely capable of writing a children’s story about a dead body. The dead body in question is the titular composer, a master of classical music now good only for rat food. Featuring clowning extraordinaire Geoff Hoyle as the emcee and inspector and, incidentally, the only human, the true stars of the show are the stringed masterpieces by Phantom Limb. (Sorry, Mr. Hoyle, but those puppets totally rule.)
In adapting Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is Dead, Berkeley Rep has created an ambitious, whimsical - even educational - evening of ornery puppets, interactive film, expert slapstick, and rousing orchestral music (now with extra birds.)
Through January 15. Berkeley Repertory Theater, 2025 Addison Street, Berkeley. Tickets are $29-73 at (510) 647-2949 or berkeleyrep.org.