Murder in Noirville

Ian Huffam

 

Kanata Theatre’s production of Peter Colley’s Murder in Noirville is a show that shines at moments although it has plenty of obstacles along the way.

The biggest problem this production faces is its script. Murder in Noirville is a pastiche/parody of the classic Hollywood film noir genre, marked by moral ambiguity, first-person narration, unadmirable heroes, and strong-headed women. Like any typical noir film the plot really gets started as a femme fatale walks into the apathetic hero’s office, but the similarities start to fade away after that point.

The play opens with disillusioned and disgraced cop Joe Adamante moving to the town of Edenvale on the US-Canada border in 1950 as the new sheriff. He quickly finds out that the two richest families in town are pitted against each other, and that one or possibly both of them are involved in some sort of cross-border drug smuggling ring.

A big problem with this script is its inability to decide whether it’s more of a thriller or more of a mystery. The concept of time in this play is awkward and confusing; occasional contradictory references by characters are made that would indicate an extremely eventful 24 hours followed by several days of absolutely nothing before the action picks up again. This could be completely wrong, but playwright Colley hasn’t made it very clear. With this unclear concept of time building tension becomes impossible, and so this play fails as a thriller.

Yet, it doesn’t work well as a mystery either: the revelation at the end, when it comes, relies on information not revealed to the audience beforehand. Though this goes against the primary rules of mystery-writing, it’s not the end of the world because anyone who’s read Agatha Christie or seen an episode of Murder, She Wrote should be able to figure out whodunit within the first 10 minutes.

The production itself, co-directed by Helen and Martin Weeden, is an acceptable, if safe, interpretation. Though this play was marketed as a parody of film noir, the production is fairly serious: a string of sudden plot twists in the final scene are all taken at face value and the characters onstage all seem oddly mellow throughout. The directors seem to have taken the “film” part of film noir too seriously as well – the obligatory narration by the main character, instead of being delivered directly to the audience as per usual, is played on a pre-recorded track while the actor sits onstage doing nothing. When cop Joe flashes back to the murder of his wife and daughter, the production makes use of pointless (though very well-done) projections onto the rear wall of the set, projections which fail to contribute anything to the story.

Otherwise this is a fairly serviceable community show. Romuald Frigon’s set design perfectly captures the stereotypical features of a small-town sheriff’s office, and Helen Weeden’s costumes admirably embody the postwar spirit. Rob Fairbairn’s sound design is excellent, and though unnecessary Justin Ladelpha’s video projections are extremely well-executed. Hopefully their talents will be better spent in the future on worthier scripts.

 

Murder in Noirville

Written by Peter Colley

Directed by Helen and Martin Weeden

Starring Cathy Dowsett, Ronald R.D. Gardner, Ian Glen, Harold Swaffield, Peter Veale

Set Design by Romuald Frigon

Costume Design by Helen Weeden

Lighting Design by Roy Ballantine, assisted by Ron Francis and Cameron MacDonald

Video Design by Justin Ladelpha

Sound Design by Rob Fairbairn

Publicity by Paul Behncke

Playing at the Ron Maslin Playhouse March 25 to April 5, 2014