Dallas — Taking a cue from the widely popular “Serial,” “S-Town” and “Missing Richard Simmons” podcasts of the past few years, the Dallas Comedy House is staging Suspect: A True Crimedy, a new sketch show that delves into the details surrounding a big crime in a small town.
Using a style and tone reminiscent of NPR and podcasts, Director Jade Smith gives the cast time to build their characters in a way that at first seems somewhat disjointed, but it all comes together in the end. And in a big way.
Ryan Goldsberry introduces himself as podcast host Gregory Stoke and explains why he decided to go to this nondescript town in the middle of nowhere. He wants to find out exactly what happened to Barry Forrester, who was found dead in his apartment in a case the local authorities deemed an accident.
Stoke presents a handful of potential suspects, including Forrester’s ex-wife, his daughter, his landlord and a local private investigator. In another early scene, we also meet the town’s law enforcement honcho, who is quick to remind Stoke that he views him as an interloper and a maybe even a potential pedophile.
Stoke explains to his listeners that while Barry Forrester led a simple life by all accounts, it seems that those closest to him all had reasons to want him gone but also all had plausible deniability regarding his death.
Goldsberry does a good job creating a cohesive narrative throughout the show, which really takes off after intermission.
The early scenes allow the cast to establish in-depth characters, which enables the performers to go big and really play up some tropes associated with the crime story genre, cast member Ashley Bright says.
“Writing narrative sketch is challenging because you have to pay off on the things you’ve set up, but the pay-off is worth it,” according to Bright. “I think the true crime procedural’s purpose is to dive deep into the people and their reasoning.”
Jason Hackett concurs and enjoys watching his castmates portray absurd characters.
“I think there has been a move in the sketch shows at the theater as the sketch program has matured to include more narrative structure, and I think this show is a progression of that,” Hackett says. “I have a tendency to play the straight man in a lot of scenes, so getting to break out of that has been very fun.”
He plays private investigator Jack Surge, who while purposely fidgeting with a fake mustache in one scene declares that he “gets as close to the truth as the truth will let me go.”
Funny thing about the truth though is everyone has different versions of the same truth.
And everyone in this small town has their own version of the death of Barry Forrester, which, as it turns out, defies any semblance of any of the characters’ own truths. In short, it needs to be seen to be believed.
Andrew Plock brings a manic energy to each scene he’s in, and he’s in a lot of Suspect: A True Crimedy as our main, deceased character as well as the policeman who is less than happy about Gregory Stoke’s dalliances.
“I’ve never been in a show that plays this strongly to a performer’s strengths,” Plock says. “From the writing to the creation and execution of the characters, it’s such a showcase of these talented people I’m sharing the stage with.”
Suspect: A True Crimedy runs each Friday and Saturday night through Sept. 16.