Bitter Kiss Goodnight Review
I walked into the darkened theatre. The atmosphere hit me like a slug from a .45. I dropped into my seat. OK, bring on the action.
The play takes as its starting point the screening of Orson Welles' 1958 film A Touch of Evil, frequently cited as marking the end of classic noir. It's late in the day for hard-boiled private detective Frank Greene, but when a beautiful femme fatale seeks his help in finding her missing brother, he decides to take on one last case.
It should be easy for our cynical, cocky gumshoe, but of course there is a vampish former love interest, an infamous mobster and a little bit of history to deal with. Perhaps the case is not quite so perfect for our flawed anti-hero.
The production is an exacting study of the film noir genre, from its backlit silhouettes, trademark low-key lighting, use of flashback and voiceover narration to its fatalistic mood and hard-bitten language.
The use of simple but flexible and effective props allows the plot to flow. Iconic images are invoked with shafts of light from hand-held lamps fracturing the deep shadows and even the skewed camera angles of film noir (something of a trademark of Orson Welles' directorial style) are partly replicated by having much of the action decentred on stage. It's clever stuff.
The acting for the most part is credible. Perhaps Frank could be turned up a notch to lift him off the rather thin pulp fiction page and allow us to identify more with him. Similarly, Nails could be played with a little less nervous fear. The sweeping away of the monochrome 1950s by the colourful ‘60s is nicely captured by William Chappell as the pill-popping embryonic drugs baron with a Warhol like shock of blond hair.
It's a slickly directed, professional looking production that has ambience in spades and a great cinematic feel. It just needs a bit more depth to the plot and the characters and a bit more balance to the pace. Like Frank's case it's simple... too simple.
Times: 24-29 August 2009, 4.00pm.