Silver Screen Slayer
By Christopher Soden
The Examiner

Silver Screen Slayer, a spoof and homage to the Film Noir Genre of detective mysteries, is set in the Hollywood of 1939, where private sleuth Johnny Tewtones is interviewing a blonde, voluptuous client, Vivian Troubble.Vivian is only the latest in a line of starlets who have been subsequently murdered after being cast in the title role of Mata Har's Revenge. She's reasonably concerned about her own demise, so our hero is only too glad to take on this perilous case. He heads out for the movie set where he encounters a posse of five directors, another dazzling actress named Jessica Danger, her sinister co-star Rhett Herring, and a deliciously harried Film Director. Assisted by police detective O'Hara and secretary Kitty Kissinger, he will track down the killer, while grappling with spies, tumultuous romance, and the challenges of cross-dressing.

If we count films (Murder By Death, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, Clue) television comedy sketches and full blown productions such as the Black and White Shows staged at The Pegasus, Noir satire could almost be a genre unto itself. Making it happen successfully, though, can be challenging, because the tone and style of the actual classics like : Detour, Sorry, Wrong Number, The Maltese Falcon seem so campy and overblown by today's standards, that they almost mock themselves. The best humor (as we've all heard before) may look easy, but it's delicate as a chemical reaction. Even when the dialogue seems preposterous and the gags inane, there's a fluid quality to the sharpest comedy that makes it feel inevitable and intuitive.

Local playwright Matthew Edwards (author of the impressive Written in Time) has some splendid, original ideas: a detective so submerged in gumshoe solioquy he fails to notice another murder (or that the others characters can hear him) five producers that create spontaneous vaudeville, drag so bad it wouldn't fool Mr. Magoo. Edwards dabbles in some risque' quips : the Jewish hierachy of the Hollywood Studio System, the supposedly gay covert behavior of one producer in particular, indulging in the dodgy zeitgeist of the 30's. There's a lovely, relaxed, playful quality to Silver Screen Slayer that gives the players lots of room to emote and inject that loopy element of absurdity that stage comedy thrives on. It's grandly entertaining, and if there are a few times when it doesn't quite pop, or feels as if Edwards is only dipping his toe in the pool, no doubt these trivial concerns will work themselves out in the long run. Silver Screen Slayer is marvelous fun.
Review by David Novinski
Theatre Jones

With a name like Silver Screen Slayer, could there be any question as to what kind of show is onstage at Margo Jones Theater?

Actually, it might surprise you.

Writer Matthew James Edwards whips all the fun of film noir into a pulpy parody romp. Director Carol M. Rice helps the cast load all the hamming and cheese that any theatrical sandwich could hold, pocket or otherwise. Brought to you by Camp Death Productions, it's a labor of love and you're invited, provided you suspend your disbelief at the door.

There's something uniquely satisfying about how they are practicing the art of entertainment. Maybe it's because they're serving up exactly what the audience is hungry for. Like professional wrestling or a cosplay convention, everyone there is chasing the thrill. It's a group agreement to have a particular fun and it's limited only by your participation.

Even given that, this show is above the mark.

The genre chosen for their bent of spoof adulation is the film noir detective. Distilled for what's delightful about those hat and coat-wearing knights of the night, you'll get murder, molls and mayhem; sirens of the police and silver screen, and a detective, Johnny Tewtones (Gary Powers) who will sate your hunger for Harry Hunsacker, at least until the next black-and-white comedy comes around.

Powers anchors the evening with an equally franchise worthy character: a private eye who says his inner monologue out loud. Just when you think they've gone to the well one too many times with this bit, it becomes funny again. Valerie Horna plays his "girl Friday," Kitty Kissinger, who holds a candle for the dimwitted, though dedicated, dick.

The case concerns the murders of any woman who gets cast as Mata Hari in the latest MGMGM production Mata Hari's Revenge, including the woman who hires him, actress Vivian Troubble (Averie Bell). On a split screen set by designer Kaori Imai, the action alternates between his office, a dressing room and, by means of an old time oleo drop, the movie studio. There, a keystone kops chorus line of producers makes hay from every Hollywood cliché (a highlight of the evening). Actors Robby Dullnig, Bill Otstott, Louis Tarmichael, Dale G. Gutt, and Steve Roberts may be having the most fun you can have at a Dallas theater.

Next up for the role so prized that even Kitty auditioned is the dish of eye candy, Kristin Rea as Jessica Danger. Her co-star Rhett Herring (Gary Eoff) is suspiciously eager for her to take the ill-fated role. Johnny, staying close for Ms. Danger's protection, makes Herring nervous and Kitty jealous. All the ingredients are there for a good time: a love triangle, secret agents, and, of course, murder. All the while, Johnny keeps blabbing his inner monologue for all to hear.

This may be a show aimed at a certain taste but could appeal to anyone with an open mind. Powers has the chops to make the iconic inner monologue material work. Meanwhile, the sincere cast is beguiling in their commitment to the silliness and director Carol M. Rice shapes the arc such that the audience is invested by the end regardless of their antics.

The whole thing is more fun than a bowl full of popcorn, thrown or otherwise.

But that's a different theatre, entirely.
Review by Chris Cortinas member review

Ah! The thrill of the lights and the stage of the Pocket Sandwich Theater... after nearly 17 years of being in love with this venue, the honeymoon is still not over and the blush and excitement of great local theatre burns brighter than ever! To say that I was excited about this production is an understatement. The draw for me was twofold… First off, as much as I adore and devour the Popcorn Tossing Farces presented so often here, I really do love it when they get down to more serious comedies and musicals. Also this was another of the shows directed by my favorite local director Carol M. Rice of Rover Dramawerks fame. The show promised to be a melange of straight faced melodrama, romance, and outright laugh out loud hilarity.

I showed up with a sharp and witty cohort by my side and we prepared to be entertained. The lights went down and the music came up and we were transported… Hollywood in the days of LA Confidential, LA Noir and the Black Dahlia… this was atmosphere and scenery at it's best. Open on a run down office, belonging to one Johnny Twotone gumshoe extraordinaire, The private dick that everyone knew was the man to see when mystery and mayhem threatened.

Of course no noir production can start any other way than with a monologue… narration of the thoughts and motivations of the main character. Immediately we knew that something was different about this oh so familiar scene… Johnny was sharing his thoughts, but rather than a recording, a voice over, or even a mumbled commentary, that the other participants would never quite catch, this was a full blown 4th wall breaking one sided conversation with the audience. At first I admit, I was a bit confused at this departure from the theater norm. I glanced at my date and we chuckled at some of the almost innocent idiocy that was pouring forth from the recesses of Johnny's mind. The combination of massively embellished overconfidence, and clueless and oblivious lack of observation was charming and made you really begin to like him and want him to succeed, no matter what case the script would place in his path.

But this was not the best part… While Johnny had no problem turning to the audience and waxing eloquent about hard life in the big city, or his abilities to feed the hungry stomach of Crime a double decker knuckle sandwich of Justice, he was almost completely oblivious to the fact that the other characters in the play could hear and react to this diatribe he was spewing. I agonized over putting that information into the review. It was one of the most amazing and gratifying surprises of the entire production. Once the rhythm was established, a great majority of the comedy was placed squarely on the shoulders of this one device. But I decided that it's like telling a prospective audience that the entertainer will juggle twenty flaming Komodo Dragons blindfolded. Yes you have given away the climax of the act… but by gosh, the people still need to see it for themselves. Gary Powers, the actor who plays Johnny is amazing. His timing, facial expressions, and outright sincerity and genuine likeability shine forth from the moment he first begins to speak. He never misses a beat, breaks his deadpan and serious delivery, or fails to really be the leading man that this script demands. I mentioned that I had brought a sharp mind with me and I was thrilled that every clever and witty exchange was not lost on us. We laughed together and even to a certain extent expounded upon the jokes and situations during the intermission and for hours after the play. It was truly a remarkably entertaining piece of theatre.

I don't want to give the impression that this was a one man show. While Johnny is undoubtedly the headliner, the rest of the cast were all brilliant in their own way. Val Horna, as Kitty, (Johnny's intrepid and lovelorn assistant) and Kristin Rea as Jessica, (the femme fatale of the show) were notably good. Val's Kitty was the perfect blend of sincere and obsessive, and Kristin's Jessica managed to be sultry and vulnerable, at the same time as being seriously kick ass and smart. Add to it that the chemistry between all of the Mains was excellent. I was gratified that the on stage kissing was not that awkward "we are doing this because it's in the script, so let's just get it over with" kind of emotion that is sometimes the staple of stage productions. I was particularly happy to see Kristin get her chance to have time in the spotlight. She expounded upon the excellent stage presence and confidence that she displayed in a much smaller role for Carol in "Lend Me a Tenor", done previously at The Pocket Sandwich. Even the bit parts like the policemen, movie crew and of course the Five Producers…no Four Producers and a Corpse were scene stealers, if not show stoppers every time they took the stage.

There is only one obvious villain in this production, and that role was capably placed on the broad shoulders of the "other" Gary, Gary Eoff who played Rhett . He was a delicious combination of ham and cheese and managed to overact, or understate in exactly the right proportions as needed to keep the plot alive and the scenes moving. His growing tendency to evil monologue as the show went on was hilarious and very well done, to provide counterpoint to Johnny's over the top narration. I will only say that the climactic battle between hero and villain was definitely one for the scrapbook. It literally left us in stitches…

The scenery was great, making use of the small stage area well. The action worked the stage space in equal measure, leaving no seat in the house lacking for personal attention. All of this added up to a top notch production. I place the credit for this delightful piece of entertainment not only on the actors, but on Carol M Rice as well. Her sure and deft directorial hand, her attention to detail making sure her actors were right on time, scene transitions were well done, and the flow of the play was a steady blend of tension and raucous laughter could not have been better. She made excellent use of the material, cast wonderful actors and made sure the crowd had a wonderful time. Thank you Carol for that.

I meant to go straight home and write this review as soon as I was able, and of course Life intervened and things came up. So even though we saw the opening night performance… (another fact which makes the polish and perfection of this show so amazing)… I am only penning it two performances before the close. For that I apologize. Anyone who enjoys a great play, go see this. Anyone who enjoys comedy and laughter, go see this. Heck, if you have a pulse, go see this show… You will be so glad you did!