KPBS AIRDATE: May 12, 2006
A couple of killers – and some killer performances. Murder is on the minds of local theatermakers – in a melancholic monologue and a madcap musical comedy. “No Way to Treat a Lady” is a tuneful adaptation of a funny 1968 film; the meditative “Nocturne” was a recent nominee for the Pulitzer Prize.
Written by Adam Rapp in 2001, “Nocturne” is a starkly beautiful, elegiac contemplation of loss and grief. Fifteen years ago, the narrator tells us right out of the gate, he killed his sister. It was inadvertent; he was 17 years old, driving home from his summer job. When the brakes of his Buick Electra failed, his beloved 9 year-old sib was decapitated. His mother spent the rest of her days in deep depression. His father pulled a gun on him. And our “resilient narrator” ran off from that deadly “blonde house” in Joliet , IL . At the end of the play, as his father is dying, he returns. And this mournful unraveling of tragic events ends with a little flicker of light, a spark of hope, reconciliation and redemption. Al though the precipitating event is harsh and brutal, the language of the play is lyrical and poetic; the piece is still, muted, deliberate. Some of the seminal scenes are subtly enacted upstage, in the strikingly spare New Village Arts production, designed by Kristianne Kurner, directed by Joshua Everett Johnson. In a precise, delicately calibrated performance, Francis Gercke nimbly navigates the pain, anguish and lush, evocative language. Nothing very dramatic happens, but this is marvelous, meticulous storytelling that engages the mind and sometimes stops the heart.
Now, murder takes a decidedly different turn in “No Way To Treat a Lady,” where a serial killer sings and a Mama’s boy detective gets his man – and his girl. The musical is a hoot, and it’s played to perfection at North Coast Repertory Theatre, under the scrupulous and hilarious direction of Rick Simas . Based on the novel and film by William Goldman, Douglas Cohen’s show focuses on an unemployed actor who’ll do anything to get his name in the New York Times, to win approval from his deceased, disdainful mother, once a celebrated actress. Killing a string of lonely women does the trick, but he commits his homicides with care – and flair: wigs and accents and costumes that are, well, to die for. Randall Dodge is uproarious in the role, and he’s matched laugh for laugh by Susan Denaker, who plays all the hapless victims, as well as both men’s carping mothers. As the budding lovers, husband and wife Nick and Rebecca Spear are a delight – he’s the zhlubby gumshoe and she’s the adorable ingénue. Al l sing wonderfully, under the lively musical direction of Tim McKnight. Be forewarned: this show will knock you dead.
©2006 Patté Productions Inc.