Punning mania

Film Noix

By Ed Malin
Directed by John DeBenedetto
Temerity Theatre Co.
Under St. Marks
Non-union production (closed)
Review by John Chatterton

Ed Malin, as this play demonstrates, is a glutton for historical and scientific trivia. A "fun glossary" in the program includes definitions of "fagotist" (a bassoon player), Fenian, Noix (not a misprint, but French for nuts), and the Van Allen Belt, a belt of cosmic radiation held in place by the Earth's magnetic field. Signs of erudition, but significant? These concepts are thrown off as sparks from wads of comic dialog in what amounts to a spoof of the film noir genre, or of pulp fiction of the same era. The play has a cast of paper characters trying to maneuver an improbable plot amid a sea of impenetrable puns, where it founders. Sample: Customer: "Give us a bottle of your best white." Waiter: "White Infidel." (Customer pulls gun, insulted.) Too much of this sort of thing has a dulling effect on the senses.

The story concerns two women, Tina (Karen Thornton) and Annette (Amy Lee Pearsall); Heavy P. (Michael C. Freeland); El Conde Nasty and his twin brother The Nasty Prince, played by Jack McGowan (one in a mustache, one without); and gangster/wit Madras O'Fenian (David Sporer), mostly one-armed (though he seemed to get his arm back for one scene). Why The Nasty Prince is out to get El Conde Nasty was opaque. It has something to do with sibling rivalry. There was something to do with aliens, and an announcement at the end suggested that these aliens were putting a stop to the play.

Or, to quote the synopsis posted online, "Starting off as a 'film noir play' of uncertain time period & setting, Film Noix goes within the minds & hearts of two female secret agents, both in love with El Condé Nasty. Each thinks she is his only love, because El Condé’s twin brother & the gangster Madras Ofeenian are obscuring the picture. But who’s deceiving whom? What did El Condé really discover at the Observatory in Guadalalopez? And should he have to die for it?"

This play grew from a five-minute sketch for a Spontaneous Combustion 48-hour playwriting festival at Manhattan Theatre Source. It shows its roots in sketch comedy, as it is made up of numerous short scenes, most of which revolve around a sometimes visual, but usually verbal, gag. Malin has a versatile mind, as evidenced by his upcoming comedy about food and physics, Girl = Mass X Anorexia and his Restoration-era verse play, The Inconstant Infection.

The actors generally made as much fun of the gags as possible, though the constant scene changes (aided by absolutely minimal scenery and props), along with constant shots from the author's punning armamentarium, kept stopping the momentum of the story.

Box Score:

Writing: 0
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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