BWW Reviews: NURSERY CRIMES an Inventive Twist on Film Noir
It seems mash-ups, particularly in music, have become more and more popular in recent years, and the crazier the idea, the better the mash-up usually is. The same goes for theater mash-ups. On paper, the idea of mixing a film noir-esque mystery with Mother Goose characters may sound bizarre, but the world premiere of Nursery Crimes, produced by Last Act Theatre, manages to poke just enough fun at both genres while still maintaining a level of respect and reverence for each.
The original comedy by Greg Klein reimagines Jack Horner (the little guy who sat in a corner sticking his thumb into pies) as a booze-craving, chain smoking private eye. His latest client is the beautiful Bo Peep who, you guessed it, lost her sheep and needs Jack's help to find them. In true film noir fashion, Klein throws plenty of twists and turns into his whodunit, some of which are expected and some of which are completely surprising. But it's his decision to couple the genre with adult reimaginings of childhood characters that makes Nursery Crimes special. Who knew that when Jack and Jill went up that hill, they were packin' heat?
Director Will Hollis Snider really knows how to make Klein's work pop on stage. There's a sly, cynical tone throughout, and there are several tips of the hat to conventions found in classic Hollywood crime dramas. Lindsay McKenna's monochromatic costumes scream 1940s, and Rachel Bennick's muted, grey set evokes the feel of an old black and white film. The same idea comes through in Courtney DeGinder's lighting and Tabitha Warrick's fantastic black and white projections. Visually, the show feels like a classic movie come to life.
As Jack, David Boss gives a strong performance. Boss is the perfect fit for the anti-hero who probably has more vices than redeeming qualities, and his deadpan, sardonic line delivery is akin to great film noir performances like William Holden in Sunset Boulevard and Jack Nicholson in Chinatown. Sara Cormier proves to be another noir style pro with her portrayal of Bo Peep, the classic good girl with a touch of mystery to her. Of the supporting cast, all of whom play multiple roles, there are a trio of stand outs. Travis Bedard is fantastic as both Peep's slightly effeminate, Colonel Sanders-esque father and as the stern police officer, Guy Blue. Peggy Schott excels in her dual roles as Donna Hubbard, Jack's warm-hearted and loyal secretary, and as Marjorie Daw, a cameo role which gets some of the best laughs of the night. And Bobby DiPasquale is hysterical in his trio of roles. His fast-taking, tongue-twisting take on Peter Piper will make you wonder is Peter's pickling his peppers in crack.
Though the basis of Nursery Crimes may sound a bit crazy, it's a gamble that pays off tremendously. Nursery Crimes is completely entertaining and aesthetically beautiful. Mamma Goose should show her gritty femme fatale side more often.
Running time: Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission.
NURSERY CRIMES, produced by Last Act Theatre, plays the Dougherty Arts Center at 1110 Barton Springs Road, Austin, 78704 now thru Sunday, November 24th. Performances are Thursday - Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm. Tickets are $12-$15. For tickets and information, visit www.lastacttheater.com.