BWW Review: Carpenter Square's THE MALTESE FALCON kicks off new CST LiveOnline video series
Dashiell Hammett's 1930 crime novel The Maltese Falcon became an Academy Award nominated movie in 1941, directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart. The film scored a win for Best Supporting Actress for Mary Astor in the role of Brigid O'Shaughnessy. In 1946, CBS and The Screen Guild Theatre produced a series of radio plays featuring shortened versions of Oscar-winning movies and starring many of the original actors in the roles. Frank Wilson adapted the movie into the condensed radio play, and Carpenter Square Theatre is performing his script for modern audiences.
Presented on Facebook Live and their YouTube Channel, CST's production brings a bit of theatre back to those supporters and patrons who are missing it now more than ever. Filmed and broadcast live at RK1 Studios in downtown OKC, this radio play is a fully produced auditory journey, a hard-boiled crime mystery set in San Francisco in the 1940s. It's strongly reminiscent of the film noir it's based on, and fans of the classic film will find themselves quickly enraptured by this performance. The play features ads and commercial spots by Real Life sponsor House of Squib, a family owned pharmaceutical development and research company.
Don Reece introduces the players and reads radio ads, complete with a pause and a chime every time a product name is mentioned. CW Bardsher provides sound effects via foley artistry, a unique and rare artform. Foley artistry is simple yet elaborate. If a door needs to open or shut, Bardsher uses the small door on his table. If hard footsteps are heard, he uses, of course, shoes. The added video quality means the viewer can watch all the items being used to create the sound effects. With a few normal items, the world of the play is created.
Renowned Oklahoma City artist Ben Hall plays the infamous Detective Sam Spade. Spade is trying to find out who killed his partner, and in the process gets entangled in a web of secrecy, lies and deception. Hall's demeanor and voice are classically leading man. He's smooth and polished, with a no-nonsense attitude and a soft spot for the ladies. Hall is an effectual actor, creating a character who's charming and chilling, tough and gentle. He's the ultimate hero, with style to boot. The actors are fully costumed for this production, a nod to the online viewers. The way Hall dons and removes his hat reminds the viewers that this character is nothing if not a gentleman.
Crystal Barby is Brigid, a mysterious woman who enlists the detective's help. Her business associate has been killed, along with Spade's partner. At the heart of this mystery is an ancient artifact, a figurine of a falcon encrusted in jewels. The figurine is a relic from ancient Malta, a gift to the Spanish from the Maltese people to prove their loyalty. The falcon has been missing for centuries, and there are numerous parties on the hunt for it.
Brigid claims to have no information about the falcon, but everywhere Spade turns, he is confronted with people trying to locate it. As his suspicion grows, Brigid becomes less of a victim and more of a suspect. Barby is ready at every turn to match her passion with Hall's, and together the two create an intimate and dangerous pair.
Rob May is the eccentric collector Gutman. He's spent decades searching for the falcon, which to him has historical, financial, and personal value. May is cool and nefarious, yet ambiguous in his motives. As Gutman he reaches near desperation in his search for the falcon. May proves once again that he's a multifaceted talent and a pleasure to watch in anything he does.
Terry Veal is dual-cast as Wilmer and Joel Cairo, Gutman's lackies and henchmen who do his dirty work. Veal employs different voices for each character and uses his vibrant, enthusiastic presence to bring both characters to life. Veal is an energetic and animated performer, creating two characters almost simultaneously. As Cairo he's quite hardened, sleazy and untrustworthy. As Wilmer he's younger, more innocent, yet hot-headed and unpredictable. Veal is at all times impressive and skilled, and always fully embodies each role.
Directed by CST's Artistic Director Rhonda Clark, this production is the first in a new monthly online series that will occur while the pandemic shut-down remains in effect. Clark has assembled a strong cast of players, and her theatre is the first in OKC to offer online performances of full plays. Kudos to Carpenter Square for their innovation and adaptability during this trying time. It's going to help us all through the infinite wait.
Carpenter Square's CST Live Online series is available on their YouTube and Facebook pages. The Maltese Falcon is the first of several planned monthly theatrical events, all available online during the pandemic.