La Vie Noir
nytheatre.com review by Lisa Ferber
February 22, 2007
Jim Neu's new play with songs, La Vie Noir, is short, smart, and to get to the point, it works.
With a huge wink to 1940s noir, Neu's telling of a group of strangers temporarily trapped in a bar at the top of a building who go through various confessions and revelations packs a special brand of absurd humor. If you've ever watched a Bogart film and found it subversively funny, you'll get this. When Jim Neu comes onstage as Cody Bates, who has had some kind of mysterious past with Cora Carlisle, played by Mary Shultz, even his eyebrows are funny—the because-it's-so-serious funny.
Now, this play isn't as much crack-up humor as it is peculiar and sophisticated. Neu has his own style and creates his own world. Added to that, the tiki-bar-style set, by Meg Zeder, is so well done that even the elevator is convincing.
The show runs one hour long and flies by. All performances here, well directed by Keith McDermott, are of the style and run smoothly. Downtown legend Black-Eyed Susan (an original member of Charles Ludlam's Ridiculous Theatrical Company), is refined and funny and as Betty Borcus, a character whose existence is a commentary on what makes people achieve local fame: Betty becomes visibly angry when the people in the room don't instantly recognize her as the woman who shot her husband, a situation which leads to one of the many good lines in this show: "Stress kills. My husband would still be here tonight if I weren't under so much stress when I shot him."
Other sharpies include
- "If I wanted to call your body, who would I ask for?"
- "I love lightning and thunder. I would put lightning and thunder in my contract if I could."
- "You bring out the voiceover in me."
- "You think I'm a pushover?" "I think you're fantasy friendly."
My one wish is that the chanteuse's singing moments had been more exaggerated. The songs and the performance could have been schmaltzier to suit the rest of the serious-but-subtly-humorous tone of the play.
A bunch of the actors and the crew have worked with Neu repeatedly, according to the program. And it shows the whole way through.