Thursday, November 27, 2008

'Gunmetal Blues' film noir on stage

'Gunmetal Blues' film noir on stage


November 26, 2008, 11:16 a.m.
CHUCK GRAHAM
Tucson Citizen

Film noir isn't just on film anymore. Invisible Theatre has mounted a rainy night black-and-white production of "Gunmetal Blues" perfectly cast with Tucson's matinee idol Armen Dirtadian as the troubled private eye and Betsy Kruse-Craig as the doll.


Private eye Sam Galahad (Armen Dirtadian),

is a sucker for a mysterious blonde

(Betsy Kruse Craig)

in "Gunmeal Blues."

Although both singing actors are best known for their heroic performances at The Gaslight Theatre over the years, don't mention the G-word to either one. They start shaking their heads and waving their arms.

"This is nothing at all like Gaslight," says Kruse-Craig, looking alarmed that anyone would even ask. "There's a lot more to the story, and this is a much more intimate stage."

For the torch songs in "Gunmetal Blues" the cozier stage means a more sensual, shaded interpretation. The singers' phrasing can hang in the air on lingering notes that reluctantly slip into the past.

"You can give a song more layers and more character," she adds, explaining that she plays four different women - all blondes. So each needs a different singing style, a different pace to match the change in personality.

"This is the hardest show I've ever done in my life," injects Dirtadian, lest anyone think he just has to stand around looking cool. "It's the most detailed, and the writing is so rich."

He leans forward, reciting some lines. "She had hair the color of moonlight on topaz. And a mouth that would have sent Shakespeare thumbing through a thesaurus."

To fill the silence, he began another. "The gray mist of morning had given way to a ceiling of cold, unblinking stars."

The imagery definitely was several cuts above Guy Noir on National Public Radio's "A Prairie Home Companion." Scott Wentworth wrote the script, with music and lyrics by Craig Bohmler and Marion Adler.

"I get so caught up in the writing," Dirtadian says. "It is very precise. You can't ad-lib. If you can't think of the exact word, you can't just use a synonym. It's like doing Shakespeare. You can't ad-lib Shakespeare, either."

He has a point. Stephen Sondheim is another theater icon who kept coming up. "The music is similar to Sondheim," Dirtadian says.

"Which makes it wonderful to act," Kruse-Craig jumps in.

Both start singing together. It does sound like Sondheim, but sexier.

"One of the characters I play is a bag lady. It feels like I'm singing 'Sweeney Todd,' " Kruse-Craig beams.

Her other three personalities are Carol Indigo, who drinks not wisely but too well; Laura Vesper, a business executive in touch with her inner woman; and Jenny, the sweetheart every guy dreams of in the wee small hours of the morning.

The bag lady? Her name is Princess.

Completing the cast is Mike Padilla as the Piano Player, working in that kind of seedy hotel where lonely hearts pile up on the hard shoals of bitterness. Padilla also covers several small roles, as well, from cop to doorman to cab driver.

The plot begins with a flashback to 10 years before, at the same seedy lounge, when Sam felt one of those electric looks from a woman he would never forget. Or ever meet. But now, Sam is pulled into investigating a murder that may involve that very same blonde. Or maybe it's a suicide, and more than a coincidence she's the same woman. He can't be sure. There is only one way to find out.



IF YOU GO

What: Invisible Theatre presents "Gunmetal Blues" by Scott Wentworth, Craig Bohmler and Marion Adler

When: 7:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday previews; opening 7:30 p.m. Wednesday; continuing at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 21

Where: Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.

Price: $18-$27

Info: 882-9721, www.invisibletheatre.com