Whodunnit on the Set of 50’s B Movie Set
When a classic Agatha Christie plot combines with a spoof of a 1950’s B movie, the result is hilariously funny. Attack of the Killer Murder…of Death, an original script by Wayne Rawley, at Theater Schmeater, was all those things. There was the classic square-jawed very masculine leading man, the curvaceous starlet willing to jump on the casting couch, the aging film star all decked out in heavy 50’s make-up, the beat-nik, the starry-eyed kid from the sticks….or so we thought.
Predictably the movie is being shot on an island off the coast of Los Angeles on a tight budget, and its subject is that quintessential 50’s theme, reflecting post-atomic bomb cold war sensibilities-fear of the uncontrolled effects of science. The absolutely perfect Gothic set by Michael Mowery tells the audience exactly what to expect, and could easily have been used in any black and white Hollywood movie of that era.
For all the clichés, this play is very well-crafted with an intricate plot and complicated but mysterious connections between the characters, not all of which were apparent to the audience. With two intermissions, it lasted two and a half hours which seemed a tad long, but it did engage the audience’s attention. Although the music was composed by the Sound Designer, Al Angel, I would have sworn it was vintage 50’s music, while the sound and lighting design, by Dave Hastings, at times scared the bejesus out of me.
Theater Schmeater’s new space is streaks better than the old space, however, sitting in the back row, there were some sight problems; since the death scene takes place on the floor, it was impossible to see from there. Also, the lights blocked some of the action on the stairs.
Director Wayne Rawley assembled a solid cast, particularly Alyssa Keene as Kitty Curvey, the ingénue who had excellent comic timing, and delivered a lot of lines with castrating sarcasm. Allie Pratt, as Abby Watson, the kid who appears to be from the sticks, was superb. One minute she was playing the innocent, the next taking charge of everything. Lisa Branham as Desdemona Sunset, the aging film star, played a very campy character, looked every bit the Norma Desmond from the movie Sunset Boulevard, but actually managed to convey some of the realities of her tragic situation. Corey McDaniel as Beauregard “Red” Andrews- the camera-man was a master at playing a cowboy with a Texas accent.
Tim Moore as Martin Van Handsome ( the macho Rock Hudson substitute) was cast well, had a commanding voice, but his diction was mushy. Since a major plot point is a monologue he delivers which is virtually a pattersong with a lot of alliteration, rhymes and puns, it fell a bit flat because he didn’t articulate clearly enough.
Since Theater Schmeater has a loyal following of fans who love their spoofs of Twilight Zone and other Sci-Fi antics, part of the pleasure was the audience participation. Their audiences haven’t started dressing in period costumes, but I expect that soon. It was a full house and loads of fun, especially if you are old enough to remember the 50’s.
Attack of the Killer Murder…of Death! Theater Schmeater 2125 Third Ave, Belltown, Seattle, Thurs-Sat. Thru aug 16. 8 pm. www.schmeater.org or (206) 324-5801. Tickets: www.brownpapertickets.org