Friday, December 5, 2008

'Gunmetal Blues' is fun noir schtick, with tunes | www.azstarnet.com ®

'Gunmetal Blues' is fun noir schtick, with tunes www.azstarnet.com ®

'Gunmetal Blues' is fun noir schtick, with tunes
By Kathleen Allen
Arizona daily star
Tucson, Arizona Published: 12.05.2008

The piano player tickled the ivories while the detective, dressed in a fedora and a shiny gray suit, downed five, no six, fingers of whiskey in one gulp.
The blonde crooned a tune while she made herself at home stretched across the piano. The player looked like he might tickle her.

And so it goes in Invisible Theatre's perfectly played "Gunmetal Blues," a sendup of 1940s detective flicks. Only with music.

Director Gail Fitzhugh struck just the right note with the play — it would be easy to overplay this one and not trust the audience to get the jokes or the references.

She trusted them, as did her cast, Mike Padilla as the piano player Buddy Toupee, Betsy Kruse Craig as the Blonde, and Armen Dirtadian as Sam, the private eye.

Craig and Dirtadian are veterans of The Gaslight Theatre, but this isn't a Gaslight rehash. "Gunmetal Blues" is a bit thicker with plot and not nearly as, well, ridiculous.
But it most definitely has its ridiculous moments.

Like when the piano player became a cab driver, then a crook and then a cop within a minute-long scene. Padilla handled the character switches — done with hats and accents — with a dead serious face and a certain grace. Which made the whole scene that much funnier.

Some of the songs were deliciously over-the-top: "There are blondes / and there are blondes / And it's almost like a joke / You breath them in like perfume / You blow them out like smoke." That one was sung in a sultry voice by lounge singer Carol Indigo, one of Craig's several roles (all of them blondes, of course).

Then there are the poignant songs: "Bring me back my childhood days / The sky when it was blue / Rain when it was pure / And love when it was true." That melancholic little ditty was sung by all three.
This is not brilliant theater. Sometimes it is just a tad too self-conscious, and the plot is cobbled together primarily so that lines like "she had hair like the color of moonlight on topaz" can be dropped and songs can be sung.

But it's a fun play, with some impressive talent — Dirtadian and Craig were in strong voice and gave definition to their characters. And Padilla, who doubled as the show's music director, really impressed with his ability to shape a character even if he had just seconds to do it.
In the end, the biggest mystery in this play is why anyone would pass it up. It's light, fun, and it's got a piano player named Buddy Toupee.

Why would you miss that?

Review
"Gunmetal Blues"
• Presented by: Invisible Theatre.
• Director: Gail Fitzhugh.
• When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 21.
• Where: Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.
• Tickets: $25-$27.
• Reservations/information: 882-9721.

● Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@azstarnet.com or 573-4128.