SummerWorks Play Review: Long Dark Night, August 8

Toronto – You know, there’s probably as many parodies of the gritty, hard-boiled private eye stories as there are gritty, hard-boiled private eye stories. Long Dark Night is certainly one of them.

I’m sure you know the setup. A gritty, hard-boiled private eye is in his office drinking bourbon when a leggy femme fatale enters with a case: her husband has been murdered, so he has to meet with a series of unsavoury characters to solve the crime, only to be double-crossed a few times before things are finally resolved in the end.

In Long Dark Night, most of the satire is not exactly subtle. The PI character’s name is Skip Tracer; the femme fatale’s name is Femme Fatale (pronounced “FAY-tah-lay” in the show). It’s full of goofy puns, like one character being named Tuesday Mae, same as her mother and her mother’s mother, making her Tuesday Mae the Third. It makes a few winking mentions of old noir actors and settings when the characters reference things like “the corner of Sidney and Green Street” and go to the Tit Tat Club.

Aside from some of the puns (and there are some real groaners) and silly accents, there are some decent jokes here. John McNeill is pretty good as the bumbling, drunken PI. He’s sometimes overshadowed by Jessica Moss as his assistant Irene, even if her shrill, nasally voice gets a bit grating at times.

But a lot of the jokes are…well…kind of dumb. A couple of bits just get beaten into the ground. And the songs…the lyrics to all but a couple of the songs are quite insipid, and not to put too fine a point on it, but singing is not really this cast’s strong point. Having a live keyboardist and drummer on stage is occasionally an asset, but overall neither the live background tunes nor the musical numbers really add anything. The pace of the show is pretty slow, and for as much space as the slide projector and screen take up on stage, the backgrounds it projects don’t create a lot in the way of atmosphere.

With a parody target that’s been done well so many times before (Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, for one, my personal favourite noir/gumshoe parody), this just doesn’t stand out, and it would need a lot of polish before I’d recommend it.

Long Dark Night runs through Sunday August 14th as part of SummerWorks. Check the website for schedule and tickets.

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Posted on by Brian in Reviews, Summerworks, Theatre

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