Silver Screen Slayer, a spoof and homage to the Film Noir Genre of detective mysteries, is set in the Hollywood of 1939, where private sleuth Johnny Tewtones is interviewing a blonde, voluptuous client, Vivian Troubble.Vivian is only the latest in a line of starlets who have been subsequently murdered after being cast in the title role of Mata Har’s Revenge. She’s reasonably concerned about her own demise, so our hero is only too glad to take on this perilous case. He heads out for the movie set where he encounters a posse of five directors, another dazzling actress named Jessica Danger, her sinister co-star Rhett Herring, and a deliciously harried Film Director. Assisted by police detective O’Hara and secretary Kitty Kissinger, he will track down the killer, while grappling with spies, tumultuous romance, and the challenges of cross-dressing.
If we count films (Murder By Death, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, Clue) television comedy sketches and full blown productions such as the Black and White Shows staged at The Pegasus, Noir satire could almost be a genre unto itself. Making it happen successfully, though, can be challenging, because the tone and style of the actual classics like : Detour, Sorry, Wrong Number, The Maltese Falcon seem so campy and overblown by today’s standards, that they almost mock themselves. The best humor (as we’ve all heard before) may look easy, but it’s delicate as a chemical reaction. Even when the dialogue seems preposterous and the gags inane, there’s a fluid quality to the sharpest comedy that makes it feel inevitable and intuitive.
Local playwright Matthew Edwards (author of the impressive Written in Time) has some splendid, original ideas: a detective so submerged in gumshoe solioquy he fails to notice another murder (or that the others characters can hear him) five producers that create spontaneous vaudeville, drag so bad it wouldn’t fool Mr. Magoo. Edwards dabbles in some risque’ quips : the Jewish hierachy of the Hollywood Studio System, the supposedly gay covert behavior of one producer in particular, indulging in the dodgy zeitgeist of the 30’s. There’s a lovely, relaxed, playful quality to Silver Screen Slayer that gives the players lots of room to emote and inject that loopy element of absurdity that stage comedy thrives on. It’s grandly entertaining, and if there are a few times when it doesn’t quite pop, or feels as if Edwards is only dipping his toe in the pool, no doubt these trivial concerns will work themselves out in the long run. Silver Screen Slayer is marvelous fun.
Camp Death Productions presents Silver Screen Slayer playing through June 22nd, 2014. The Margo Jones Theatre, Fair Park, 1121 First Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75201. 214-646-3114. www.brownpapertickets.com