Straight up, this is not a production geared to me as an audience. It’s a 1950’s play revival for my grandparents’ generation. It has all the trappings of a noir play, with its stiff front-man sheriff, hidden secrets in a small town, shadowy lighting, and a femme fatale with a past and a shiny gold gun. However, this production is lesser than the sum of its parts.
The production has great bones in its set: that of a sheriff’s office complete with jail cell, paralleling the Andy Griffith Show. It is well built and evocative of the time with period fixtures such as stained glass, vintage phones and a starring typewriter, which elicits the biggest laughs as it is fiercely typed on – a joke to be enjoyed by those from another era. I feel, however, that the giant American flag was unnecessary given the abstraction of the ambiguous place the play is set in.
Also great are the costumes. The femme fatale gets a fabulous array of spectacular period clothing, and the gents are well suited each according to their archetype, the Mafioso gets a double breasted suit, the mayor a light grey/off white one and the lead man, a tweed looking three piece. The “Tomboy” character however, seems to have been an after thought, as she doesn’t change her clothes despite the passing of days and her pants are three inches too short.
The lighting is everything you should expect from a noir play. It plays with the silhouettes of each character, introducing their shadow in the Sheriff’s door window. The stage is often lit to let light peer through blinds, from behind doors and that all-important desk lamp.
The play is slow, however. The lines lack the punchy delivery one might expect from a professional production. The actors struggle to convey their lines in a realistic fashion, shifting from over the top gestures to underwhelming character development to sometimes forgetting their character or that they’re on stage in front of an audience all together. This is not helped by the directorial decision to cheat the actors towards the audience instead of facing each other. This not only breaks the forth wall in an unintended fashion, it also prevents the actors from building chemistry, demonstrated most jarringly by the forced kissing scenes. More distressing is the Sheriff “acting” drunk, which looks more like an offensive caricature of someone with a neuro-physical disability. Similarly the Mafioso’s shaky Italian-American accent is equally inappropriate especially when paired with the accusatory line, “WOP!”
While the acting and directing are clearly amateur, if you’re looking to treat your grandparents to a night out in a beautiful setting with all the ornamentation of a professional playhouse and all the goodness of a canteen stocked with affordable homemade goodies, then keep this light production of Murder in Noirville in mind.
Murder in Noirville by Peter Colley runs Thursdays – Saturdays at the Kanata Theatre’s Ron Maslin Playhouse (1 Ron Maslin Way) until April 5. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 613-831-4435.