Dallas — With a name like Silver Screen Slayer, could there be any question as to what kind of show is onstage at Margo Jones Theater?
Actually, it might surprise you.
Writer Matthew James Edwards whips all the fun of film noir into a pulpy parody romp. Director Carol M. Rice helps the cast load all the hamming and cheese that any theatrical sandwich could hold, pocket or otherwise. Brought to you by Camp Death Productions, it’s a labor of love and you’re invited, provided you suspend your disbelief at the door.
There’s something uniquely satisfying about how they are practicing the art of entertainment. Maybe it’s because they’re serving up exactly what the audience is hungry for. Like professional wrestling or a cosplay convention, everyone there is chasing the thrill. It’s a group agreement to have a particular fun and it’s limited only by your participation.
Even given that, this show is above the mark.
The genre chosen for their bent of spoof adulation is the film noir detective. Distilled for what’s delightful about those hat and coat-wearing knights of the night, you’ll get murder, molls and mayhem; sirens of the police and silver screen, and a detective, Johnny Tewtones (Gary Powers) who will sate your hunger for Harry Hunsacker, at least until the next black-and-white comedy comes around.
Powers anchors the evening with an equally franchise worthy character: a private eye who says his inner monologue out loud. Just when you think they’ve gone to the well one too many times with this bit, it becomes funny again. Valerie Horna plays his “girl Friday,” Kitty Kissinger, who holds a candle for the dimwitted, though dedicated, dick.
The case concerns the murders of any woman who gets cast as Mata Hari in the latest MGMGM production Mata Hari’s Revenge, including the woman who hires him, actress Vivian Troubble (Averie Bell). On a split screen set by designer Kaori Imai, the action alternates between his office, a dressing room and, by means of an old time oleo drop, the movie studio. There, a keystone kops chorus line of producers makes hay from every Hollywood cliché (a highlight of the evening). Actors Robby Dullnig, Bill Otstott, Louis Tarmichael, Dale G. Gutt, and Steve Roberts may be having the most fun you can have at a Dallas theater.
Next up for the role so prized that even Kitty auditioned is the dish of eye candy, Kristin Rea as Jessica Danger. Her co-star Rhett Herring (Gary Eoff) is suspiciously eager for her to take the ill-fated role. Johnny, staying close for Ms. Danger’s protection, makes Herring nervous and Kitty jealous. All the ingredients are there for a good time: a love triangle, secret agents, and, of course, murder. All the while, Johnny keeps blabbing his inner monologue for all to hear.
This may be a show aimed at a certain taste but could appeal to anyone with an open mind. Powers has the chops to make the iconic inner monologue material work. Meanwhile, the sincere cast is beguiling in their commitment to the silliness and director Carol M. Rice shapes the arc such that the audience is invested by the end regardless of their antics.
The whole thing is more fun than a bowl full of popcorn, thrown or otherwise.
But that’s a different theatre, entirely.