nytheatre.com review by Josephine Cashman
August 17, 2011
The second the program told me that “this production complies with all standards and practices set forth in the Hays Code” I knew I was in for a treat. Noir, written by Stan Werse and sublimely directed by Marc Geller, transports the audience back to New York City, 1950. You know, back when real life wasn’t black and white like the movies, or where bad guys wear a black hat. It’s the kind of world where seasoned, cynical cops like Officers McQue and Grimes, along with by-the-book Rookie Clay Holden try to find out what kind of men they are. Of course, sultry, seductive chanteuse/wealthy Widow In Distress Helen Lydecker isn’t going to make it easy to stay on the straight and narrow.
It’s the kind of world where I make the futile attempt to write the previous paragraph like Dashiell Hammett. Yes, it’s that much fun.
Performed on a bare stage with minimal lighting, the actors Michael McCoy, Andrew Dawson, Darrel Glasgow and Abby Royle do a terrific job. They remain faithful to the genre, but characterizations are sharp and richly layered. They take what could be stock characters and turn them into true individuals, struggling to make the right decisions. The stark stage lends a moody, smoky feeling, enhancing the experience.
Werse creates a fun and witty homage to noir, and also manages to throw the audience some laughs. Geller’s direction and staging breathe fresh life into a familiar morality tale of loyalty and betrayal. Ashley Rose Horton’s costume design is sumptuous and hits the bulls-eye in honoring the genre.
There is a problem though; the playwright has also created other compelling characters the audience never sees, but only hears about. It makes it a little hard to keep track of who is who, and I yearned to actually see these intriguing characters interact with the ones onstage. Nonetheless, it is a smart and entertaining jaunt through a style that’s usually seen only on the screen, and rarely onstage.
In my case, I left the theatre trying to speak in the rhythm and dry, humorous style of Officer McQue. So if you are a fan of film noir, do not miss this play.