Murder in Noirville is a stylized film noir set for the stage. With shocking twists and turns, it keeps the audience guessing as they go down the rabbit hole of the small town of Edenvale.
Should you see it?
With its period costumes and smooth jazz, Murder in Noirville attempts to delve into all the tropes of the movie genre. Our hero, Joe, is a former detective whose life was destroyed when his family was murdered. He finds himself at the bottom of a bottle, when he’s made sheriff of a sleepy town. As we all know, even sleepy towns have secrets, and Joe is caught up in a whirlwind of money, mobsters, and murder. In this town, everyone is a shadowy figure. Literally. Every time a character enters it’s accompanied by dramatic shadows and suspenseful music.
As great and campy as this sounds on paper, the reality is a long and drawn out mess of a play. Peter Colley seemingly tried to utilize every cliche and stereotype he could to fill the play with ideas that went nowhere. The characters are stereotypes who don’t ever grow beyond the cookie cutter, and have awkward interactions. The competing storylines were frustrating to follow as almost none of them followed much logic or came to any sort of resolution. There was no comedy to confirm this as a spoof, and yet there were offensively dated cliches that the audience seemed to laugh at instead of laugh with. The inconsistent tone was a reflection of the lack of direction within the play’s writing. Scenes felt uncomfortably dramatic or comical despite their importance. I haven’t been able to glean what made this play worth producing beyond the opportunity to play dress-up in 50’s garb.
The performances in Noirville should be over-the-top caricatures to compensate for their lack of emotional depth. Unfortunately, Peter Veale’s performance as Joe was quite stiff. He had the look but had a lot of trouble engaging the audience. Most memorable for me was Harold Swaffield as the crooked Mayor of Edenvale. His character vacillated between preening and primping the town’s iconic flowers and screaming accusations. Cathy Dowsett as the no-nonsense dispatcher Alex (never call her Alexandra) was a great contrast to Erin Ryan’s rich, saccharine seductress Evelyn. These characters were the definition of one-note, so it’s difficult to attribute much credit, when at best I was indifferent.
Whatever Noirville was lacking in other areas, the elaborate production values compensated for it. The two act play takes place in a single set that transports you to the 1950’s and makes sure the audience becomes engrossed in the action. I found myself quite impressed with the fantastic lighting, great use of sound effects and the perfect jazzy mood music. I did find that the blocking and the actors’ interaction with props became clumsy and distracting. They would spend long periods of time, during scenes, walking around the set and fussing with props.
I was extremely underwhelmed by Murder in Noirville, expecting at the very least for the detective to solve a mystery or two. This play is meant to be laughed at. If you’re heading to the Kanata Theatre, be prepared to chuckle and whisper your theories on who’s behind it all. It might be the only thing to keep you entertained.
But that’s just my opinion. What did you think of Murder in Noirville? What did you think was the funniest moment? Did the ending shock and surprise you? Let me know in the comments below.
Murder in Noirville runs Tuesdays through Saturdays from March 25th until April 5th with all shows starting at 8pm at the Ron Maslin Playhouse.