Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Vice Girl Confidential (Fringe '06 Experience #6)

Right after seeing Air Guitar, fellow Nosedivians Steph, Tai and I bolted from the Lower East Side to the Cherry Lane Studio in the West Village to see Vice Girl Confidential, a mock "film noir for the stage" written by Todd Michael and directed by Neal Sims.

And featuring Nosedive's Resident Alien, Christopher Yustin.

The show has been getting a lot of good press and response, enjoying a damn near sold out run at the Fringe and winning the Fringe Outstanding Ensemble Award. Finally being able to see the show, I immediately saw its appeal. It hits the right notes and is at just the right length (an hour) to be fun and funny without wearing out its welcome.

What's the show about? It's a typical noir story done in a camp vein, opening with a stern voiceover about how this show has been made to expose the dark ugly truth about the "white slavery" known as the vice racket. The play takes place in New York City in 1942 where the chief of police and the D.A. want to put a crime boss in the electric chair and abolish the whorehouses while the local madam wants to stay in business and free herself from said crime boss and a hooker with a heart of gold trying to save her sister from...well, you know the story.

A seedy city with seedy characters doing seedy things where justice triumphs in the end.

Zany antics ensue.

Todd Michael (who plays a role in drag as Stella Duvall, the madam of the local whorehouse) clearly had fun writing the Raymond Chandler-esque dialogue (i.e., "Hey boss, y'want me to slap her ears off?") and the cast clearly had fun speaking it. His writing (for this play, anyway) most resembles that of Charles Busch's and the production itself reminded me of previous productions by TOSOS II. Having said that, this isn't just a knock-off of Mr. Busch's and TOSOS II's style.

Director Neal Sims (who also plays mob boss Duke Craigie in a way that reminded me of Albert Finney's role in Miller's Crossing) keeps the pace tight, which is crucial for a show that depends on lightning-quick timing and dialogue. The cast is pretty much all-around excellent, hitting their respective archetypical roles spot-on. Christopher Yustin (not a surprise to me, considering he's been involved in eight of 11 of Nosedive's shows) takes to this type of rat-a-tat dialogue (with such lines as, “The only sweating I want to is the sweating Duke Craigie does while he's walking up those 13 steps...to the electric chair!”) like a duck to water in his role as D.A. Slade. Walter J. Hoffman, who plays two roles (Muggsy Regan and Edgar Baldwin) looks and sounds like one of those smug stoolies straight out of a Howard Hawks or John Huston movie (or a Simpsons episode featuring Fat Tony's mob, whichever).

In short, Vice Girl Confidential earns its popularity and audience appeal.

I'm really glad that I liked the two shows I saw back-to-back; otherwise I may have killed myself. Or at the very least thrown up.

(Christopher apologized afterwards that he felt he gave an "off" performance, since he was horrifically hung over and sleep deprived. Since I, too, was horrifically hung over and sleep deprived - we had gone out the night before together - I didn't notice there being anything "off" about him or the show, since I could easily have been described as an "off" audience member).

After leaving the theatre and congratulating Christopher, I went home and went to sleep.

I didn't care that it was only six in the evening.

All Fringed Out,

James "Zzzzz" Comtois


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