City of Angels garners big laughs

Dazzling to both the eye and the ear, the Theatre, Dance and Music departments’ collaborative production of City of Angels was as refreshing in the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre last weekend as it was as a Tony-Award winner in the late 80s on Broadway.

The plot follows an author named Stine as he tries to convert his noir private eye novel into a film noir script that will please producer Buddy Fiddler. The plot follows the comedic writing process, shifting between film scenes and real-life. Stine and the characters in the movie have real-life doppelgangers whose influences toy with him until Stine finally reaches the “Hollywood ending” he wants both in life and in his script.

Director Leslie Jacobson in concert with set and lighting designers Carl Gudenius and Liz Crosbie and costume designer Esther Van Eek established a striking contrast between the world of film noir and that of Hollywood, with stark lighting, black and white costumes in the movie sets, and eye-catching reds, yellows and blues in the Hollywood world.

Jacobsen made good use of the set, whose simplistic utility placed the emphasis more on the action. The set’s function especially came into play during a scene with a falling curtain to shield a quick escape, gunshot and phone trick, all perfectly timed. The set also contained the pit orchestra whose crisp jazzy sounds set the mood, but often covered the actors’ speaking and singing voices.

Jeff Stern took some time to feel comfortable in the part of Stein. But by the final duet with Stone in Act One, he established himself a commanding presence on stage. This is not to say, however, that he was able to upstage his associate, Stone, played by Zack Borichevsky. Borichevsky epitomized the style of the film noir private eye, though his movements were not often as fluid as your typical Joe Friday.

Where the actors faulted in awkward movements, they made up in vocal ability. With the exception of a few pitch problems, the cast was able to attack the challenging score with style. Standout performances include Evan Shyre as Lieutenant Munoz singing “All You Have to Do is Wait” and Audrey Faustuca as Mallory Kingsley in “Lost and Found.” Jacobson and her cast put on a production that handled anything from onstage fellatio to mob violence with the wit and comedic timing of professionals.

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