The Noir genre is often underestimated. Just populate the stage with sneering men and half clad, cynical ‘dames,’ add a dollop of decadence, sprinkle in a pinch of pistols, and voila! – an easy-bake concoction called Noir. If only it were that simple. It may look like Noir, but if wit is absent, taste will be missed.
One neglected, but essential ingredient to success, is the world-weary character who takes a moral stand and clings to his or her ideals in counter-point to the overwhelming darkness the world gleefully spews forth. The audience expects an emotional connection. They hope to take solace in knowing they are not alone in attempting to navigate these murky times.
So, of course, our hero must try to fathom the shadowy labyrinth of human behavior. Those above mentioned ‘dames’ bear many secrets and are loath to reveal them cheaply. Characters string the hero along by teasing the hinted at but hidden. Anything too easy or glaringly obvious is suspect in this world. Too much is at stake.
This year’s “P L. A. Y Noir” collection of one act plays at The Actor’s Workout Studio, pretends to be noir but too often trades broad humor for the tease. These plays have a sexual component, but expect a face full rather than the innuendo usually associated with the genre. How many times can a single word be milked for a sophomoric punch line? Don’t ask.
One acts ‘get no respect,’ because they so often sink into sketchy material. The one act’s brevity actually raises the bar for excellence. Full length plays may survive a weak scene, but a one act is especially vulnerable to flaccid writing. These plays are the antithesis of what noir and one acts aspire to be.
I haven’t known that many killers, but I doubt they ever spend twenty minutes chatting to their prey about their dark existentialism. Do assassins have a poetic license?
“P L. A. Y Noir” runs the gamut from high concept to double-entendre laden shtick. Yuk, yuk.
Actors James Elden, Laura Boccaletti, Nicole Suzanne, Andrew J. Hillis, Jason Galindo, Gordon Meacham, Guy Noland, John Conroy, Angela Bray, Roy Oraschin, Jason Galindo, Tania L. Pearson-Loeser, Jim Shipley, Rachel Borbas, and Roxanne Jaeckel gamely bring energy to this potpourri of dead flowers. Many actors play multiple roles in this two-hour showcase of untested work.
Note: strong sexual content throughout.
P L. A. Y Noir is staged Fridays and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through October 2nd, 2016, at The Actor’s Workout Studio 4735 Lankershim Boulevard, North Hollywood, CA 91602.
Ticket information: www.playnoir.com.
Note: This review has not been published previously.