Over too soon. No, seriously.
Film Classics Presents: Suspicion
KC Fringe Festival
"Film Classics Presents: Suspicion" is the second in Kevin King's "Film Classics Presents" series of plays in which he attempts to replicate the feeling of a classic movie from the golden age of Hollywood. I'm afraid I never had a chance to see the previous effort: "Heaven So Far," so I am unable to compare the two. However, I think I can say for certain that King knows his source material. The look and feel of a postwar film noir is accurately captured here, and makes for a very interesting if not entirely satisfying experience.
Our host for the show is Faye Chantilly-Grayson (Chadwick Brooks), a recently divorced ex-TV preacher whose resemblance to any similarly named late televangelists cannot be considered entirely coincidental. She pops in from time to time, reading trivia about the "movie" and begging for pledge money for the TV station broadcasting it. The story itself follows G-Man Charles Worthington (Matthew McAndrews) and his gal, spunky aviatrix Rachel Rochelle (Stefanie Stevens) as Charles attempts to track down the notorious Devil, a gang boss who leaves a calling card at every assassination. Rachel, meanwhile, has teamed with her old flame Marshall (Fransico Javier Villegas) to smuggle various items around in her airplane. When they agree to make a delivery for Fritz (Dana Joel Nicholson), they find themselves quickly in over their heads.
The story is a fun one, and does an excellent job of recreating the tropes and look of the era. Costuming and makeup are spot on, and even the props and staging mimic the look and feel of the genre. A lot of effort has been put into getting all the details just right. Which makes it a bit of a puzzler why the author would choose to curtail the screenplay without resolving anything. Without giving too much away, the story builds and builds to a grand climax, seemingly setting up for one final confrontation... and then stops. The end. Roll credits. This is extremely frustrating, and leaves an unfinished feel to the piece. Our hostess Faye even comes out and explains that when the movie came out, audiences reacted angrily, and the director went into hiding. All very droll, but it doesn't make the effect any less jarring. Film noir was a cathartic medium; in order to do its job there must be closure. But here there is none to be found.
The performances are all very good, the actors having done their homework. I particularly enjoyed Ms Stevens' portrayal of Rachel, and Ryan Chambers as overbearing Mother Worthington was straight out of Mommie Dearest. Less deft was the scene changing, which happened all too frequently and took far too long. A faster way of moving from scene to scene needs to be devised, or at least the crew needs to devise ways of doing it that don't involve things falling over, noisily crashing into other things offstage, etc.
Overall, this is an excellent production and one with potential. I would love to see this again after it has been worked over, smoothed out, and the story resolved. From what I have seen, I have no doubt that Mr King is up to the task.