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|A CurtainUp Review
Theatre of the Film Noir
How can you have guilt when there is no innocence?
With George F. Walker's The End of Civilization having all too quickly moved into our file cabinet, it's nice to report yet another play by the inventive Canadian. Again this is a case of catch it before it's gone since like so many Off-Off-Broadway productions this one is restricted to its brief run by equity regulations.
While Theatre of the Film Noir stands on its own, it was particularly interesting to see this much earlier play (first produced at Toronto's Factory Theatre in 1981) right after Civilization which is Walker's most recent work. Both plays are about people who abandon civilized values and behavior when the world around them has at least for a while stopped making sense to them.
As in Civilization we have a detective as a central character. True to the genre that inspired the title, the trench-coated Inspector Clair (Mitchell Riggs) serves as our narrator through this criminal investigation amidst the rubble and chaos of Paris post World War II liberation. Clair specializes in difficult cases but in the amoral climate spawned by years of occupation, he must often settle for clarifying a situation without proving guilt rather than neatly solving a case -- guilt being something of an impossibility in the absence of innocence. (see the quote at the beginning).
The truth, or clarification, being sought during Theatre of the Film Noir's smartly staged and suspenseful 75 minutes is how a young homosexual with Communist affiliations bled to death beneath a barricade. The trail leads us to John's lover Bernard (Eric Ostrow), his sister Lilliane (Fiona Jones), her Nazi lover Eric (Lex Woutas) and Hank (Michael Waelter) an American who supplies her and, indirectly, Eric with daily necessities. It is a dark and twisted tale of self-delusion, sexual entanglements and the lengths to which people will go for survival. A good deal of black humor runs through it all.
Director Andrew Frank has smartly put the emphasis on pacing and performance. The set is minimal, with the most dramatic set piece, a grave, literally smashed open before our eyes. Jeff Croiter effectively casts just enough light on this shadowy universe. The five actors range from competent to outstanding, with Eric Ostrow's Bernard very much in the latter category.
Synchronicity Space is a comfortable little theater. The tickets are an affordable $12. Definitely an off-the-beaten path theater recommendation.
For our review of George Walker's Civilization go here