Lee Cortopassi’s The Big offers a fun, farcical take on classic film noir, loaded with ludicrous, laugh-out-load moments of sheer, nearly surreal silliness.
Set between 1939 and 1942, The Big follows three stock noir characters – sultry wannabe actress Scotch Esperanza (Dana Kreitz), notorious yet sensitive criminal Matty McFadden (Lee Cortopassi), and comically clueless detective Frank Springfield (Andrew Block) – as they travail within a triangle amoureux. Scotch loves Matty, but then the detective, an enemy of Matty’s, catches her eye, thereby putting her at peril. As she duels with her dual affections, she never loses sight of her goal of always wanting “to be in the pictures.” As the plot thickens, so do the shtick and giggles.
Sure, the characters are clichéd, but the playwright delights in playing off the audience’s familiarity with those clichés. And the stereotypes of classic detective movies are parodied, kinked, twisted and taken to the hilt of hilarity over the course of The Big.
The actors show off superb comedic talents. Block’s rich reading of a comic poem, Kreitz’s performance of an audition piece for Gone with the Wind, and the droll, beautifully executed expressions dancing across Cortopassi’s face would normally be entertainment enough. But Cortopassi – a Quintessence Theatre ensemble member who not only co-stars but also serves as playwright and director – combines all of that with lively jazz music, mime and stylized movement, as well as a surplus of uproarious gags. Take some, leave some, there’s more than enough for anyone and everyone.
Spot-on staging, great-looking period costumes courtesy of Jane Casanave, Chris Lione and Tom Leonard, and snazzy patterned lighting by John Allerheiligen help to give this “melodramedy” an extra touch of style.
Running Time: One hour, with no intermission.