Sevigne, je t’aime
A Shot In The Dark
Adapted by Harry Kurnitz from “L’Idiote” by Marcel Achard
Directed by Rick Joyce
Midtown International Theatre Festival (www.midtownfestival.org)
Where Eagles Dare Theater, 347 W. 36th Street, 1st floor
Equity Showcase (through July 30, 2008)
Review by Charles
A Shot In The Dark might be a comedy, but its production history has the makings of a great tragedy. It was adapted from a French farce, and had so much success on Broadway in the 60’s that it was adapted into a film by Blake Edwards. Alas, Edwards had recently worked with Peter Sellers on “The Pink Panther”, and Edwards decided to re-write A Shot… to center around Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau character (who bore no resemblance to any character in the original play). The play found itself overshadowed by the Pink Panther film series for the last 40 years, so this production of it is a nice treat for theatre-goers this summer.
The story centers around Paul Sevigne (Morgan Sills), a young magistrate tasked with getting to the bottom of a recent murder, which occurred in the home of prominent family. Sevigne’s superiors want the incident swept under the rug with a quick, scandal-free indictment of the most obvious suspect. Sevigne, however, senses that there’s more
to the case, and spends the show interrogating a series of zany characters including a naughty chambermaid (Ashlee Fife), an adulterous banker (Charles Borland) and a cunning society dame (Lisa Riegel).
This sort of bawdy humor is the kind of thing that might become dated, but Kurnitz’s script still holds up today. Most of the fun comes from slapstick, and director Rick Joyce found plenty of places to work in physical gags and sexual innuendo (such as when the randy chambermaid finds herself bent over or sprawled out at just the right time for a double entendre.).
There’s also an abundance of ethnic humor that, while politically incorrect, is still entertaining; much fun is had with the fact that one of the characters was having an affair with a “Spaniard”.
Where the show loses steam is in the legal drama/mystery elements of the plot. Much of the dialog consists of Magistrate Sevigne interrogating his suspects, hoping to catch them in a contradiction. Watching all of this unfold, waiting for the “Aha!” moment can be a bit wearying.
On the brighter side, there’s a great cast; all of them excellently chosen for their roles, from the comic sidekick Morestan (John Kinsella) to the glowering authority figure (Dan Guller), all are well-suited to their Comedia archetypes.
Laura Brody’s costumes were period appropriate, and a good use of a small budget. There was almost no set at all, just three mismatched chairs and a too-small table. This is an acceptable concession to the minimalist needs of a summer festival, although the blocking seemed to require a bigger table for some of the gags. Daniel Haley’s lighting
was by-the-numbers as well, fitting in with the simple design.
With the summer festival season filled with original works and over-conceptualized classics, this production of A Shot In The Dark is an excellent change of pace for those seeking a lost gem.
A Shot In The Dark also features Monica McCarthy.
Copyright 2008 by Charles Battersby
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