2013 Capital Fringe Preview: ‘Detective Pimbley and the Case of the Rich Dead Lady’ by Ann Fraistat

It was a dark and stormy night, and a wealthy heiress lay dead on top of a parked car. After being shot, poisoned, crucified, and hurled out a window, Madge Silver left behind a massive inheritance. Three contenders wait in the wings to claim it: her adulterous husband, Fred Silver, her bombshell baby sister, Rose Sultry, and middle sister Samantha Sultry, a scheming femme fatale. With suspicions mounting and the bodies rapidly piling up, it falls to Detective Pimbley, private eye, to catch Madge’s killer before it’s too late. Unfortunately for all parties involved, Detective Pimbley is one of the most incompetent detectives who ever existed.

From left to right: Noah Langer (Detective Pimbley), Natalie Smith (Samantha Sultry), Katie Jeffries (Rose Sultry), and Matt Sparacino (Fred Silver). Photos by Chelsie Lloyd.
From left to right: Noah Langer (Detective Pimbley), Natalie Smith (Samantha Sultry), Katie Jeffries (Rose Sultry), and Matt Sparacino (Fred Silver). Photos by Chelsie Lloyd.

Detective Pimbley and the Case of the Rich Dead Lady is the brainchild of Shawn and Ann Fraistat, the brother and sister playwriting duo behind the Impressionable Players. The Impressionable Players are no strangers to Fringe. In 2010, they made their Fringe debut with Romeo & Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending, which received the Pick of the Fringe Awards for Best Comedy and Best Overall Show, and has since been accepted for publication. In 2011, they followed up on that success with Pandora: A Tragicomic Greek Romp. Now, after taking a year off, the Players are excited to be back with a show that’s been nearly ten years in the making.

The truth is, Detective Pimbley and the Case of the Rich Dead Lady didn’t start with a murder. It started with the fact that Ann can’t sing. Almost a decade ago, teenaged Ann Fraistat was crestfallen to discover that the only play her high school was producing that spring was a musical. This posed somewhat of a challenge for Ann, who describes her own singing voice as follows: “You know that sound a lobster makes when you put it in a pot of boiling water? Yeah. That.”

Still eager for the chance to do some theatre, Ann decided to write and direct her first play, The Rabid Panda, as an alternative for actors who couldn’t sing. It was a comedy about an art heist carried off by three desperate roommates who couldn’t afford their rent. “I meant it to be farcical, but it doesn’t seem so far-fetched now,” intones Ann, a twenty-something theatre artist, bleakly alluding to her latest bank statement.

Ann finished writing the first act, but soon realized she had no second. Luckily, Shawn Fraistat stepped in to save the day. “My sister and I had a longstanding habit of goofing off around the dinner table. One day, I was rummaging through the kitchen looking for bread, and for whatever reason I started demanding to know where it was in a 40s detective voice,” says Shawn. “It became immediately clear that what Ann’s play needed was a crazed noir detective trying to hunt the suspects down. And that’s how Pimbley was born.”

Detective Pimbley was an instant hit. The character was so popular that Shawn and Ann co-authored a play the following year with Pimbley as the lead. This play, too, was a resounding success. The black box where the students performed was small, but that didn’t dissuade audience members from packing in. “It was crazy,” Ann recounts. “The actual seats on the risers were first to go, but people just kept coming after that. There were so many people sitting on the floor that the front row was practically onstage. There were people standing on the counters in the back of the room, trying to peek over the risers.”

This marked the beginning of Ann and Shawn’s collaboration, and they have subsequently written seven full length stage plays together. (“And to think,” muses Ann, “the partnership might have never come to be if Shawn hadn’t started muttering to himself like a lunatic.”)

Though several of those plays have featured Detective Pimbley, Detective Pimbley and the Case of the Rich Dead Lady represents something of a departure from the style of those earlier shows. Shawn explains, “Previously, whenever we’ve written plays with Pimbley in them, he’s been a sort of fish out-of-water character. The plays are always set in the present, and then here’s this 40s detective who comes out of nowhere to take the case. But this time, we were determined to a write a play set in Pimbley’s own world.”

The result is a loving parody of film noir that combines the murder and mystery typical of the genre with the speed and frenetic energy of early screwball comedies.

“We’ve wanted to revisit Pimbley for so long to write him the show he deserves,” says Ann, “and the chance to share him with the audience we’ve been building in DC is extremely exciting.”


'Detective Pimbley and the Case of the Rich Dead Lady' logo, designed by Amanda Russell.
‘Detective Pimbley and the Case of the Rich Dead Lady’ logo, designed by Amanda Russell.

Fort Fringe Redrum – 612 L St NW, in Washington, DC
Saturday, July 13th @ 9:30pm
Friday, July 19th @ 8:15pm
Tuesday, July 23rd @ 8pm
Wednesday, July 24th @ 10pm
Thursday, July 25th @ 10:30pm
Sunday, July 28th @ 2:45pm


For more information on Detective Pimbley and the Case of the Rich Dead Lady, visit the Impressionable Players’ website.

This production is presented as a part of the 2013 Capital Fringe Festival, a program of the Washington, DC non-profit Capital Fringe.

ABOUT CAPITAL FRINGE: Capital Fringe is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in 2005 with the purpose of connecting exploratory artists with adventurous audiences by creating outlets and spaces for creative, cutting-edge, and contemporary performance in the District. Capital Fringe’s vital programs ensure the growth and continued health of the local and regional performing arts community by helping artists become independent producers while stimulating the vibrant cultural landscape in our city. Official Hashtags: #outsidetwire #capfringe13 #CapFringeSoldOut


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