nytheatre.com review by Di Jayawickrema
February 23, 2011
SunsetGun Productions’ Scarlet Woman is a thoroughly entertaining tongue-in-cheek homage to film noir thrillers and the black dahlias who make them memorable. Witty writing, sure-handed direction, and spirited performances make this femme fatale murder mystery a fun, infectious entry in the FRIGID New York Festival 2011.
Artistic director and lead actress Candy Simmons plays schizophrenic, confused Carmine, who suffers from migraines, constant flashbacks of a fire she can’t quite remember, and a desire to find out who killed her father. Following her father’s letter from beyond the grave, Carmine confronts several of her father’s past paramours, who each offer just enough information to lead her to the next colorful former flame. Megan Hill, an exceptional voice actor, plays many of these women with slight but significant changes to an inevitable black and red wardrobe—the colors of all dark, dangerous 1930s women. Moving fluidly and with good humor, the actresses make clever use of a large white screen upstage to suggest characters offstage and other necessary dramatic devices.
Happily self-conscious of the genre’s tricks, the characters comment on the dramatic organ music and whip out guns, arson, and arsenic indiscriminately while gleefully breezing through the stilted period dialogue. Matthew Wells’s script is tightly plotted and full of fantastic one-liners—“Just because the cupcake comes out of the oven, it doesn’t mean its family.” His one fault is that amidst the rapid fire bait-and-switches and plot unraveling, you get a little lost towards the end as to who did what to whom and why. However, director Rob O’Neill seems to recognize that the confusion is part of the fun and allows his actresses and playwright free rein, and trusts the audience to just enjoy the ride.
The audience would be hard-pressed not to enjoy this classic spoof on a classic story that never attempts too much. Ultimately, Scarlet Woman is a compact but well-developed romp from beginning to end, and an hour of independent theater well-spent.