nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
April 24, 2009
The premise of Kalle Macrides's new play Noir is intriguing: a film director named Edward Chandler has just been shot, and in the split seconds after impact, he "rewinds" the last hours of his life so that he can figure out who wants to kill him. Macrides provides a twisty, Hollywood-in-the-'40s-flavored thriller; her dialogue evokes Cain and Wilder, and the plotting and atmosphere reminds us of Sunset Boulevard, Sam Spade flicks, and—in the central idea of a good guy who gets mixed up by accident with some very bad people—some of the classic movies of Alfred Hitchcock.
Director Cory Einbinder and choreographer Laura Peterson match Macrides note for note in a production that blends high- and low-tech aesthetics to produce some very cool indie theater. The scenes are played out in front of fairly bare-bones mobile set pieces that serve dual purposes—to keep the many transitions brisk and cinematic and to provide blank surfaces on which to project nearly nonstop video images. In this way, the world of the play is literally as well as figuratively realized on stage.
The video, by Einbinder and Lindsey Bostwick, is in some ways the most impressive aspect of the design. At its best (which is most of the time), it sets the scene with flashy interiors and exteriors that could never be created anywhere except on a movie soundstage. Not only does it conjure the period, but it cannily fixes the place and the mood. Einbinder adds some ingenious interactions involving the actors and the props that are just delightful.
A word about the props: they are stylized ultra-mod square and rectangular blocks that stand in for such everyday objects as telephones, revolvers, and cocktail tumblers. They're a deft design touch.
Costumes by Deborah Hertzberg and lighting by James Hergen contribute felicitously to the milieu of Noir. And capping it off is the use of a live Foley Artist for sound effects (usually Drae Campbell, though at the performance I attended Einbinder stood in for her).
Chandler's adventures, as he re-plays his path toward murder, involve a stage manager with too many secrets, a possibly crooked cop, a nosy reporter, a tough dame who runs a nightclub and the chanteuse and bartender who work there (not to mention her thuggish deputies, who go by the monikers "Smoke" and "Fog"), and—inevitably—a pair of women with their eyes on Chandler. It would be wrong to give too much away about the plot, but I will mention that it includes a variety of unlikely detours and contains at least as many red herrings as you'd expect. It could probably also benefit from some editing, as it feels longish despite the constantly brisk pace that Einbinder maintains throughout.
A cast of 12 brings the script to life, with many of the players doubling or tripling in roles. Jared Mezzocchi is terrific as Chandler, keeping us compelled and sympathetic as the extraordinary events of the play unfold around him. Among other standouts in the company are Joe Gregori, who is excellent as Bruce Boiler, the P.I. in the film-within-the-play; Stacia French, savvy and smart as the P.I.'s secretary; and Bhavna de Montebello as the curious reporter.
Noir is a fine showcase for Einbinder and his wizardly technical colleagues, and it's also a keen entertainment wrought by a talented writer and ensemble. It's being presented at the Vorhees Theater at the New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn, which is a very exciting venue to check out if you're not familiar with it. It's presented by Adhesive Theater Project, which is led by Einbinder and Macrides; it will make you eager to see what they come up with next.