If you are interested in an evening of seven original Film Noir styled one-act plays, run do not walk to the Punk Monkey Productions presentation of PL.A.Y NOIR at The Actors Workout Studio running in the No Ho Arts District through October 2nd.
The series of one-acts breathes life into Film Noir with committed writing, passionate direction and motivated acting that add a theatrical and dramatic punch to the well-known art form.
If originality was king, this series of one-acts, now in its fifth consecutive year, would reign supreme for a thousand lifetimes.
The second half of the evening, in particular, shines due to strong play writing and an inherent need on the part of the actors to get it right.
On the opening night that that this critic saw this night of unique theatrical pieces, in front of a full house, there was no struggling for lines or blocking, merely an unmistakable workmanlike attitude towards completing an artistic endeavor.
PL.A.Y NOIR, the birth baby of actor, director and producer James Elden, relies on the work of many gifted Los Angeles artists who come together once-a-year to make this evening of seven acts a delightfully guilty pleasure.
Roxanne Jaeckel as Lillian Carmichael and Angela Bray as Virginia Quade in The Rotten State by John Conroy. Directed by Gwen Hillier.
The one-acts catching this critic's eye were "Just Business," a funny, irreverent and biting serio/comedy written by playwright Jeff Carter and directed by actress Roxanne Jaeckel about the impromptu meeting of two men in a park that seems innocent,
but turns deadly, and "Cherry," an authentic study of one serial killer's thirst for murder penned by playwright and actor Scott Lummer and directed by writer/director April Littlejohn.
Yet making the most profound noise of the night was "The Rotten State," a wonderfully comic yet genuine look at two actresses preparing to "go onstage" written by John Conroy and directed by former casting director and Broadway actress Gwen Hillier.
It proves to be the most substantive and salient one-act of the evening.
Elden has also assembled an impressive lineup of actors for the series who understand the ambiance of the occasion and the need to give all they can of their heart and soul to make for an impact-filled time.
Stand outs include:
Andrew J. Hillis (Eddie, "Dumb Muscle," Philbrick, "For You, Julius") who makes a name for himself in the second and third one-acts of the night with convincing and fiery turns. Hilis' return to PL.A.Y NOIR is a great success as he rounds third and heads for home plate with the purpose, anticipation and conviction of an actor on the brink of further notoriety.
Angela Bray (Ethel, "For You, Julius," Virginia, "The Rotten State") almost steals the night with a pair of committed, sensitive and piercing portrayals. Especially in the second one-act, Bray lays down a intelligent, meaningful and awesomely tender characterization that shows-off true range and color. Bray is at the top of her form here.
But it is Roxanne Jaeckel (Chloe, "Cherry," Lilian, "The Rotten State") who runs away with this evening. In both performances, the Orange County High School of the Arts musical theatre major and UC Irvine BA, shows-off more color than a rabid peacock.
Jaeckel blows the cork off this night of one-acts with her turn as Lilian in "The Rotten State." The portrayal is powerful, passionate, multi-layered and downright sexy. With it, Jaeckel almost takes the woman's liberation movement to the next level.
The film actress and producer infuses her characters with a naturalistic flair and classical discipline that will only lead to more textured and complex roles in the future.
This is an actress on the rise. One this critic hopes he will see more of on the stages of North Hollywood and Los Angeles again soon.
Also adding to the message of this series of one-acts is the lighting design by Wynn Zucchero.
All in all, PL.A.Y NOIR succeeds because of its film roots, not despite them.
Elden and Punk Monkey Productions should be proud of their downright unique and rare creation.
It is no easy task to style one form of art after another, but Punk Monkey pulls it off seamlessly and without a hitch.
It will be most difficult to top an evening this rich in exuberance, enlightenment, education and inspiration.
This collection of original FILM NOIR styled one-act plays has grown in number and reputation since its inception five years ago.
Hopefully, next year's offering can keep up with this year's bumper crop.
Now available in book form, the inaugural year's lot of five plays probably pale in comparison to today's.
Meshing film and theatre has never been done so well and so often by the same theatre company, at least not in Los Angeles.
Kudos to all involved.
By Radomir Vojtech Luza
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m.
$20 online, $25 at the door
The Actors Workout Studio
4735 Lankershim Blvd.,
North Hollywood, CA 91601