Richardson — It’s a testament to Harry Hunsacker fans that the world-famous detective and aspiring actor filled half of the 400-seat Bank of America Theatre at the Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts for a Sunday matinee just at the Cowboys/Lions game kick-off. They weren’t disappointed. Pegasus Theatre’s Another Murder, Another Show!, Kurt Kleinmann’s 16th play in “Living Black and White,” hits the mark with another spin of the unique vehicle he’s built around hapless Harry Hunsacker, whom he also plays. (The title references the song “Another Op’nin’, Another Show” from Kiss Me, Kate.)
Michael Serrecchia directs the playful spoof of black-and-white movies from the ’30s and ’40s with a flamboyantly melodramatic style, including wide-eyed, stop-motion pauses accompanied by foreboding music (Kleinmann designed) when a clue or a gumshoe is about to drop. Whole sequences are set to dramatic musical narratives to perk the suspense—and the laughs. What’s more fun than an old black-and-white movie? Live actors amazingly made up and convincingly outfitted by Jen J. Madison in 50 witty shades of gray, you can almost hear the reels clicking in the projection room.
This time out Harry and his brainy, paid-by-the-hour assistant Nigel Grouse (a modestly adroit Ben Bryant) wanders into a rehearsal for the big 1938 Wally Awards for Broadway performances. No-nonsense director Leon Belasco (a brusque, distinguished-looking Art Kedzierski) is running through a dance number with his actors in a New York theater, while stage hands tweak the lighting, and aging actress and guild chairman Florence Rice (a smiling, bosomy Shiela Rose) flutters about the stage in her fancy dress.
As bad luck would have it—which is whenever Harry’s around—a shot is fired and the first of several alleged murders kicks our hero and a 13-member cast full of appealingly parodied noir types into action. Chad Cline, disgruntled and huffing as ever, returns as Lieutenant Foster, the policeman who cannot abide Harry underfoot at a crime scene but always deals with it to comic effect.
Jarratt Calvert is a scene-stealer as George Chandler, an ardent actor who’s actually dumber than Harry, proving it in a couple of hilarious “tests.” Alex Moore makes a fun and flippant blonde bombshell as the tough gal actress Gloria Stuart, and Leslie Patrick is the slyly innocent actress Mary Gordon. Would these people kill for a part? Maybe. But there are many more suspects to consider as Harry comes up with the brilliant idea of overwhelming them all by disguising himself and Nigel as famed fictional detectives, from Sherlock and Watson to Charles and Nora from The Thin Man. C’mon, Harry. Actually, Nigel’s pretty cute as Nora.
So, who actually done it? The mobster Jimmy Conlin (a gruffly, sentimental Chris Messersmith) or perhaps the sneaky little guy with the brief case (Ben Schroth, activating a menacing exit laugh)? If you can figure it out by intermission, you can win a Harry T-shirt, so put on your sleuthing cap and get on over to the Eisemann.
Go early to hear crooner Angel Velasco singing hits from the era before the show. Grab a drink and return to your seat for a few more songs before the second act. He’s sooooo sexy in his baby blue jacket, hugging a stand-up mike.
Then it’s curtain time and away we go.