Monday, August 5, 2013

The Live Adventures of Dex Dixon, Paranormal Dick!—StageWorks Ink—SE Portland



Twice Bitten

This musical production is presented at the Funhouse Lounge at 2432 SE 11th Ave.  It is written, produced and directed by, and stars, Steve Coker.  Music composer and piano by K. J. McElrath and song lyrics by him and Steve Coker.  Production dates run through August 17th.  Check out their website for more information at www.stageworksink.com

The above phrase has a dual meaning.  It refers to the fact that I reviewed their Varsity Cheerleader Werewolves From Outer Space!!! last year.  And the other meaning is embedded in the heart of the play, which I won’t reveal its significance because of the biting twist (puns intended).  This play is part spoof and part homage to the classic Noir films of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.  There was a movie a number of years back with a detective, Lovecraft (Jeffery Combs), who investigated paranormal activity and, of course, the cool reporter of Darrin McGavin’s TV series, Night Stalker.

But this production is unique within itself because it’s played for laughs and adds music, dance and song to the proceedings.  The delicate line a homage must draw is to do honor to the genre without actually ridiculing it.  And this is done very well, partly because the music and songs are so expertly combined to transport one back to this era in a nostalgic way.  And the song and dance (choreographer, Jamie Langton) numbers are beautifully done both in execution and presentation.  In short, they all have the needed talent to pull this off.

I thought this was better done than their former show.  It brings zip, zing and zest into an almost forgotten genre, the Noir.  The Noir were usually black and white films with a shady detective, one or more femme fatales, some nasty villains, and with a narration or voice-over to move the plot along.  The Maltese Falcon is probably the king of all Film Noir and Hammett, MacDonald and Spillane the architects for the written pieces of this genre.  Coker, McElrath and the cast obviously understand this period and it shows onstage.

The story is typically Noir with Dixon (Steve Coker) filling in the shoes of a Marlow or Spade or Hammer.  And he has his Girl Friday, Billie Blackthorne (Kristi Bogart), who promptly quits on him and joins the competition, Manix Marloe (Jonathan Hall).  They are paranormal detectives out to make sure that Nightside, full of vampires, zombies, trolls, and werewolves, don’t invade the human population.  His client, Nelly Nailor (Jamie Langton) has hired him to stop the brain suckers.  So, into this inhospitable world, Dex must go.

But his trip to Nightside has a dual purpose as his lady love, Delila (Alexandra Blatt), a vampire, also resides there.  So, with his faithful dog/werewolf companion, Lobo (Sean Ryan Lamb), he invades this nest of monsters.  To say too much more would give away some of the twists of the story, so I won’t be a spoiler and do that.  Suffice to say, the ending is bittersweet, which is typical of a Noir adventure.  And the songs and dances along the way are an absolute delight and faithful to the genre.

Coker is amazing in the lead, as Dex!  He is a cross between Nathan Lane and Sydney Greenstreet.  Wearing multiple hats, he pulls off a splendid show.  With just the right amount of tongue and cheek, suave, and derring-do, he makes us appreciate the genre and become enchanted with the story.  There is a movie in this for sure.

And his supporting cast are equally as entertaining, not a weak link in this talented chain.  Especially appealing are the solo songs from his female femmes of Bogart, Blatt, Langton, Tasha Danner, Illya Torres and Amanda Healy.  Any professional, musical theatre would be proud to have any one of this intrepid troupe in their ensemble!  Bravo to the mighty minions of mystical mayhem and methodical murder.

I recommend this show but it should be obvious that it is adult in content so be advised.  If you do choose to go, tell them Dennis sent you.