Noir: A Shot and A Chaser
nytheatre.com review by Jon Stancato
August 17, 2008
Thank goodness Silent Theater's new play Noir: A Shot and a Chaser isn't actually silent; we'd miss the production's primary strength: perhaps the hottest jazz combo FringeNYC has to offer. It's unfortunate that these talented musicians (Isaiah Robinson, Rob Fry, and David Taylor) score a trite film noir plot staged in bad pantomime that more often resembles an acting exercise than the cinematic stylized physicality to which it aspires.
The plot is straight out of any number of Raymond Chandler stories. A detective (Joe Vonderhaar) is hired to find a missing person: Starla (Gillian Hastings), the daughter of a powerful senator. He finds her seeking stardom in an underworld haunt run by Crazy Al (Alzan Pelesic), a demimonde populated by a handful of derelicts like Jenny (Kyla Webb), Crazy Al's girlfriend and resident femme fatale, and Lorenzo (Marvin Eduardo), a washed-up vaudeville ham. Complications arise and by play's end, the stage is littered with more bodies than Act 5 of Hamlet.
The story is told via voiceover narration (baritoned by Michael Quinn) and enacted by "silently" by performers on stage. The narration is faithful to its inspirations and has some nice zingers (like "Follow the dangerous curves up to her face and you'll hit dead-end eyes") strung throughout. It does, however, drop out altogether for long stretches...which would be quite all right if director tomika todorova and the ensemble had developed a clear storytelling language to keep moving the story along. While I have no idea how they create the physical score for their productions, the actors of the Silent Theater look (and sound!) like they've been stranded without a script instead of given the liberty to create meaning without spoken dialogue. They struggle to communicate, gesturing wildly, forcing laughter, and grunting and, while the occasional word, phrase, or (gasp) line of dialogue does emerge, the lines are spoken so quietly as to negate their presence entirely. It is possible to communicate narrative without words—dancers do this all the time—but it requires precision and a recognizable movement vocabulary, two elements missing almost entirely from Noir. This boggles the mind even more after Webb and Eduardo delight with a second act tour-de-force dance, only then generating heat worthy of the jazz trio accompanying them.
I won't even get into the inexplicable and gratuitous nudity.
The play is billed as a multimedia production, and there's video footage projected nearly throughout, but anyone who sees the show during one of the daytime performances will likely be unable to catch any of it because of light leaking into the performance space [the Deluxe Tent at Spiegelworld].
I wish I could say this play is worth seeing for the smokin' jazz alone, but, alas, the on-stage action of Silent Theater's Noir is simply too loud to sit back and enjoy the groove.