Saturday, July 05, 2008

All Kinds of Shifty Villains

All Kinds of Shifty Villains may be a little shifty in its direction, but thanks to some comic villains, Robert Attenweiler's new show is far from bad. The play opens in full-blown noir, a chiaroscuro cityscape chalked in the background, and a sultry showgirl, Precious Jones (Elizabeth Stewart), singing sweet exposition. By her first chorus, the black and white has fallen away to reveal a cartoon-like world, where villains like Fonzy and The Fonz (Nathan Williams and Bret Haines) hide whiskey in cereal boxes, loyal assistants like Therese Trueblood (Kari Karchock) have their kinks, and hallucinatory heroes like Max Quarterhorse (Joe Stipek) go through nicotine withdrawal. It's a live-action Who Framed Roger Rabbit (that is, no cartoons), kept aloft by a cast that knows not to look before leaping.

In an increasingly absurd plot, a mime (Christopher Loar) goes about killing the "good" citizens of the town, forcing Max to interrogate the usual suspects, from Filthy Matthew Ginske (Michael Porshe), an obsessive bomb-maker, to Hamish Cornish (Rob Richardson), a blind thief. It's the good sort of madcap, but Rachel Klein's direction isn't always able to keep up. Ironically, Klein has no problem with the action sequences: a zombie hallucination and a rooftop showdown are the high points. However, straight scenes sag, with the actors stretching not just their faces but their characters to try and funny up some of the more redundant jokes. Also, for a show that's so emphatic on sight gags, when technical cues are missed (like the pimp's "Death by Rubber Nose"), it's sometimes hard to know what's going on.

Of course, it's just as easy to let go and have fun, following the cue of actors like Christine Holt (who plays the saucy Powder Keg) who shoot first and never ask questions later.

No comments: