Pulp fic­tion tough talk fails to heat up tepid pot­boiler

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Kevin Prokosh

THE best you can ex­pect from the pri­vate eye par­ody Gun­metal Blues is to re­mem­ber some of its many wise­crack­ing lines and for­get the fa­tally un­stylish pro­duc­tion.

Di­rec­tor Max Reimer for­got to turn up the heat on the hard-boiled de­tec­tive story and it hit the Prairie The­atre Ex­change stage Thurs­day night dis­ap­point­ingly un­der­cooked. The lack of dis­tinc­tive film noir at­mos­phere and com­pelling chem­istry be­tween the three per­form­ers left the open­ing night au­di­ence hav­ing to make do with chuck­ling at the tough talk that sounds like it was torn from the pages of the pulp fic­tion of Ray­mond Chan­dler or Dashiell Ham­mett.

The set by Van­cou­ver’s Conor Moore lacks any vis­ual flare and looks like it was de­signed for an­other stage and plopped onto PTE’s thrust space. The two main set pieces — gumshoe Sam Gala­had’s of­fice and the pi­ano bar of the Red Eye Lounge where he hangs out drink­ing too much — are cramped and look un­nec­es­sar­ily puny. Gun­metal Blues suf­fers sadly from the lack of that beloved film noir look.

The comedic cham­ber mu­si­cal writ­ten by Scott Went­worth fol­lows a dense, ul­ti­mately throw­n­away plot about dreams, il­lu­sions and the trou­ble for those try­ing to go for­ward when they are star­ing in the rear-view mir­ror. More fun are the clever lyrics of his Cana­dian wife Mar­ion Adler, who Prairie The­atre Ex­change To April 21 Tick­ets: $25-$47 at www.pte.mb.ca

out of five per­formed in Gun­metal Blues at the MTC Ware­house in 1993. Craig Bohm­ler’s mu­sic is pass­able but it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans as Humphrey Bog­art, who is heard speak­ing in a movie sound­track be­fore the cur­tain goes up, would say.

Gala­had, is a Sam Spade knock­off who is em­bit­tered about the blond who dis­ap­peared with his heart 10 years ago. His new case also in­volves a blond (with “a mouth that would have sent Shake­speare thumb­ing through a the­saurus.”), the van­ished daugh­ter of a nasty real es­tate mogul who has turned up dead. There are plenty of peo­ple sore about his tear­ing down a con­cert hall and erect­ing a sky­scraper “That marred the face of the city like a cut-rate nose job.”

An­drew Wheeler, in his crooked fe­dora, plays the pri­vate eye in the clas­sic Bo­gie tra­di­tion, jaded but with a good-hu­moured edge. When he is ques­tioned about what he does, Gala­had dead­pans, “Don’t let the trench coat fool you, I’m ex­pect­ing rain.”

It’s a chal­lenge for any tough guy to break out into song, even if it is about heart­break and hang­overs. He is at his best in the ti­tle num­ber — pulling out a har­mon­ica to em­bel­lish his blues is a nice touch — but his voice is or­di­nary.

Meghan Gar­diner, in her Win­nipeg de­but, gets to play a bevy of blonds, start­ing with busi­ness ex­ec­u­tive Laura Ves­per, who hires Gala­had to look for the van­ished good girl Jenny Wasp, who just may be Sam’s long-lost love. She also por­trays the mys­te­ri­ous bag lady Princess but makes her best im­pres­sion as Carol Indigo, the doll-faced babe who sings at the Red Eye. Those tresses also are per­plex­ing. But­tonedup all-busi­ness women Laura has her hair down but sul­try siren Carol in her red satin dress per­forms in a pony tail when her plat­inum locks should be cascading over her face like film femme fa­tale Veron­ica Lake.

Gar­diner showed off a splen­did set of pipes no mat­ter who she was play­ing but did not knock tipsy Carol’s sig­na­ture num­ber The Blonde Song out of the park as ex­pected. It was one of the two-hour who­dun­nit’s bet­ter tunes — “Bruised blonde, used blonde, ut­terly con­fused blonde.” — but lacked spark, and Gun­metal Blues missed hav­ing a show­stop­per.

Round­ing out the im­ported cast is Gor­don Roberts as the Red Eye’s res­i­dent pi­ano man Buddy Toupee, a man who once had big­ger dreams of play­ing grand pi­ano at grander venues. The mous­ta­chioed Roberts sup­plies the mu­sic, some witty ban­ter and lit­er­ally changes hats to fill in as cab driver, door­man, an Ir­ish cop and palooka who sounds like Mar­lon Brando’s Don Cor­leone. Roberts’ most en­joy­able mu­si­cal mo­ments book­end the in­ter­mis­sion: Take a Break fol­lowed by Buddy Toupee — Live, a song he turns into a com­mer­cial for his cas­sette tapes “that are not avail­able in stores.”

Gala­had gets his girl but the re­main- ing un­solved mys­tery of Gun­metal Blues is who or­dered the hit on this mu­si­cal.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WIN­NIPEG FREE PRESS

Meghan Gar­diner, Gor­don Roberts and An­drew Wheeler find them­selves in a rather

soft-boiled de­tec­tive story in Gun­metal Blues.

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