A Walk on the Noir Side in NoHo
What is it about Los Angeles and noir stories? Hiding behind the legendary sunshine of the Southland is a darker side, one where desperate guys meet up with femmes fatales in combustible fashion. Raymond Chandler saw it clearly long before he created Philip Marlowe, noir’s prototype hero and knight errant. James M. Cain used the city’s dark side to tell his tales of love gone wrong and the crimes that ensued. In the 1940s Hollywood turned to noir as a fairly cheap form of storytelling: sets lit in deep shadows are not expensive to dress. Despite the fact that these books and movies were considered trashy in their day they have come to be thought of as an art form all its own. To this day noir serves as an antidote to glossy, happily ever after tales.
In this spirit comes the PL.A.Y Noir. This mini-festival is an annual event at North Hollywood’s Actor’s Workout Studio. Consisting of six mini-plays, it offers various dark dealings all set in Los Angeles. The shows were of varying length; the first, “Infidelity Clause,” ran for seven scenes while another, “Bedsheets,” was a compact story presented as a monologue (it had a one-man cast).
Shows such as this can suffer from widely varying quality levels, but that is not the case here. As a set the evening worked much like a satisfying collection of short stories, none feeling like filler. The cast worked well together, leading to the impression they are noir fans as well. While small theaters such as this (the size of the cast seemed almost as large as their audience) can seem limiting here it felt like a strength. The stage was minimally dressed. Between plays the actors speedily moved the furniture for the old show out and the new one in. As they changed the set 1940s music and radio played. Some of these interludes fit the stories (Dean Martin’s “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometimes” was a particularly appropriate piece) while others such as a vintage Alka-Seltzer commercial feel a little bit less fitting.
The evening’s offerings serve as an homage to the spirit of noir, the dark desires that can lead to bad endings. For those of us who appreciate the genre’s willingness to look at the sunshine and find the shadows within, the PL.A.Y Noir festival does not disappoint. I can’t wait for next year’s offerings.
Punk Monkey Productions presents PL.A.Y Noir at The Actor’s Workout Studio. Fridays & Saturdays @ 8 P.M. and Sundays @ 2 P.M. For more info: https://www.facebook.com/PlayNoir.
– Louis Burklow (aka, Hollywood Country Boy), Staff Writer, Phoenix Genesis
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