The Unlikely Adventure of Race McCloud, Private Eye
nytheatre.com review by Michael Mraz
August 20, 2009
It's difficult being in a Perfect family. Especially when you're decidedly the only imperfect one. But that's the lot of Race McCloud, Private Eye. While the entire rest of his family is running around saving the world as super-spies as part of Project Perfect, Race sits in his dingy office/apartment being a very unsuccessful private eye. Until he gets paired up with his most Perfect relative, his niece: 16-year-old Cookie McCloud, and gets pulled on an unlikely adventure of a lifetime. Tom Hoefner's The Unlikely Adventures of Race McCloud, Private Eye, which follows the two, is a lot like Race himself: not quite perfect, but with some good potential.
Race McCloud, Private Eye opens in West Side City, with Race not-quite-hotly on the tail of Green Suit Jacket Man, the city's famed vigilante. Unfortunately, Race fumbles his way into a beating and heads home to his "office/apartment" (as it's religiously referred to, a joke that never quite gets old), where he meets his brother, Dirk, and sister-in-law, Skyler. They are about to embark on a secret mission and need Race to complete an assignment of his own: baby-sit their daughter, Cookie.
Race and Cookie are reluctantly stuck with each other, but Cookie's adventurous spirit and strange talent for putting puzzle pieces together puts them in pursuit of Green Suit Jacket Man. However, when they locate him they find he may not be the problem, but part of the solution in a bigger plot. The entire McCloud family has gone missing-in-action and they are the only three left to solve the mystery. This catapults them on an adventure across the world, fighting vampires, werewolves, and ancient spirits in pursuit of their family members—and they find that Cookie may be the central puzzle-piece to the whole plot.
Hoefner's story has great potential. He has a firm grasp on the wacky, cartoonish pulp style and does a great job of sticking to it throughout the script. Aided by Andrew Barkan's fun musical score, it ends up with an overall feel similar to Pixar's fantastically witty and adventurous The Incredibles. And that may be a better medium for Hoefner's adventure. Performed with a "set" of only two black cubes (perhaps due to festival constraints), the script is about an hour too long for such a minimalistic staging. The quirky, snappy script ends up feeling like a joke that goes on for too long. The type of humor that is funny in the first hour gets stretched too thin.
With such a sparse set for such a grand adventure, Hoefner's staging (he also directs) is too conventional—whereas some more creative blocking could have made the lack of grand location less glaring. The long script also could have benefited from more consistent pacing, as some of the comic timing was lost. Race McCloud could be a fantastic film/cartoon feature script but, as a play, it's just too long and asks too much of the audience's imagination over a two-and-a-half-hour span.
The cast does a very nice job with Hoefner's expanse of characters and he gives them some fun, rich roles to play; particularly, Fiona Kearns as Cookie and Ted Frank as the Narrator, respectively. Fiona Kearns captures both Cookie's teenage feistiness and her longing and loneliness as the too-perfect girl who just wants to be normal, and injects great energy into every scene she's in. Ted Frank's Narrator has the perfect blend of innocent, kid-like story telling and a bit of playful loathing for his not-so-sharp protagonist. The cast's heart and Hoefner's great characters are the strength of the piece.
The Unlikely Adventures of Race McCloud, Private Eye is full of fun dialogue and great, entertaining moments. Hoefner has a great set of tools for his story and with a bit of trial-and-error tweaking, his idea has potential to grow bigger, better, and more heroic, just as Race does throughout his unlikely adventure.