Noir On-Air

Hard Boiled is playwright Dan Bianchi's latest crack at the world of pulp-fiction noir. Produced by Radio Theatre Presents, it is a send-up of gritty detective novels and the live drama of radio theater. The setting is straight out of a 40's black-and-white mystery, the kind where the rain is always falling amid the perennial darkness in some nameless city. Hard Boiled features the usual suspects: the jaded detective, the Hollywood matinee idol and his brassy agent, the mobster and his actress wife, and the mobster's stripper girlfriend. Thrown in for effective atmosphere are a sultry singer and her pitch-perfect band. The story is interspersed with clever advertisements for other radio programs and commercial products of yesteryear.

The play attempts to recreate radio theater, and to Bianchi's credit, he undertakes this endeavor with a great deal of passion. The problem is that Bianchi the director can't decide if he is presenting a play, a re-creation of a radio broadcast that is being watched as a play, or a radio broadcast that is being heard first and seen second. With elaborate costumes and props, Hard Boiled is very much a spectacle, but some of the actors simply use their voices while others use their entire bodies, giving fully physical performances.

The cast of characters is game if not fully able. Ryan Kelly as the Mae West-inspired agent, Joey Kapps, gives it her all. Unfortunately, her all is too much, and with wild eyes, Kelly ends up overacting to the point of distraction. John Nolan as the Host has the perfect "radio" voice, and he does keep the action moving, yet he often comes across as bored. Elizabeth Bianchi has several nice moments as mob moll Cindy Marsh, but they are quickly undermined by a comes-and-goes accent and a weak character. Adam Murphy, Dan Truman, and Sarah Stephens fare better in their commercial spots than in their poorly defined characters during the show's story.

Charles Wilson saves the day (and the play) as Detective Jack Carter. His character is a cocksure ladies' man and a master of words, full of dry sarcasm, Wilson seems born to play the role, and he brings Hard Boiled alive. Yet ironically the unsung hero of Hard Boiled is singer Rhe De Ville. A sultry and sexy chanteuse, she sets the play alight with her smoky voice. Looking like a million bucks and sporting a priceless set of pipes, De Ville alone is worth seeing the show. She is expertly supported by Brian Cashwell on piano and Jimmy Sullivan on bass.

Bianchi has written a flawed script that tries too hard. With a plot that is incidental

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