A Shot in the Dark
nytheatre.com review by Jason S. Grossman
July 22, 2008
A beautiful parlor maid is found naked and unconscious at the scene of her lover's murder. But this is no ordinary murder case, as the newly appointed chief prosecutor soon learns. Everyone's got something to hide, and it may or may not be murder. A series of confessions, denials and other sordid twists fuel this madcap comedy until the final moments in this revival of A Shot in the Dark at the Midtown International Theater Festival.
A Shot in the Dark, adapted by Harry Kurnitz from a French play by Marcel Achard, was originally produced on Broadway in 1961 and starred such notables as Julie Harris, William Shatner, and Walter Matthau. The script was greatly revamped for film by Blake Edwards and William Peter Blatty in 1964 to accommodate Peter Sellers, who starred as Inspector Clouseau. The enormous success of that film subsequently overshadowed the original play, hence this revival by Wildcast Theatricals.
The play's press release claims, "Sex! Lies! Murder! Mayhem! Mystery!" Actually, the murder and sex have already taken place before the play starts, and what might have passed for "mayhem" in 1961 feels more like campy amusement in 2008. The play amounts to an informal courtroom mystery that takes place in the Examining Magistrate's chamber in Paris.
Director Rick Joyce makes best use of his resources here: a very talented cast in a very limited space. The play starts fast and clips by at a steady pace, garnering periodic laughs along the way. But for all the sassy quips and sexual innuendo, there's something that doesn't quite hit the mark; for a comedy the laughs should come more often. Occasionally tempo slowed when a line or prop was dropped, but I'm sure the minor bumps will be smoothed out in subsequent performances.
An able-bodied cast adeptly brings the script to life and all are consistent with the jaunty tone of the play. Morgan Sills does an excellent job with a bear of a role as the green magistrate Sevigne, taking on a new case with boyish enthusiasm and clever prosecutorial acumen. Ashlee Fife also scores mightily as the confused and confusing heroine Josefa. Dan Guller delivers the role of LaBlache with gusto and swagger. John Kinsella smoothly plays the competent dutiful sidekick to Sevigne, and Charles Borland is charismatic as the heroine's lover. Monica McCarthy and Lisa Riegel are also strong in supporting roles.
This is a credible production even when the whole doesn't quite equal the sum of its parts. The future looks bright for Wildcast Theatricals, especially with funnier material.