City Paper is not for tourists
Tuesday, July 23, 8:00 p.m. Wednesday, July 24, 10:00 p.m. Thursday, July 25, 10:30 p.m. Sunday, July 28, 2:45 p.m.
They say: “In a world of dark and stormy nights, Detective Pimbley prefers dark and stormy cocktails, but when a rich lady is found very dead, Pimbley is caught between a ruthless adulterer, a conniving femme fatale and, most dangerously, his ex-girlfriend.”
Brett’s take: Now matter how many shows I see, musicians I hear, restaurants I go to, whatever, it still never fails to amaze me, every once in a while, how different people can, y’know, like different stuff. It’s probably among the most kindergarten of lessons—-not everyone likes creamcheese and raisin sandwiches, Brett—-but it’s so easy to forget when presented with a show that you personally find as fun and dandy as I found Detective Pimbley and the Case of the Rich Dead Lady. Well, you know what? Even this well-made, crackerjack comedy ain’t for everybody.
But I’ll aim to convince you it’s for you, because it’s for me, and because even the several audience folks I surveyed post-show who didn’t find this theatrical confection to their tastes nevertheless readily admitted that it was expertly concocted. I happen to be a big fan of the sibling writing team of Ann Fraistat and Shawn Fraistat (Ann also directs), of Romeo and Juliet: Choose Your Own Adventure fame three Fringes back, and with Pimbley the duo is delving straight into my funny bone with this silly, ten-joke-a-minute take on the noir detective genre. Think Airplane! or Naked Gun or any other Leslie Nielsen thing, or Firesign Theatre’s Nick Danger if you wanna look that up on YouTube.
Noah Langer plays wackier and (impressively) way dumber than the deadpan Nielsen type as the titular private eye, our crayon-smoking, easily-confused narrator, who also occasionally talks to his alcohol. When a rich lady ends up (can you guess it?) dead, Pimbley finds himself in the middle of a tug-of-war between the rich lady’s three potential murderers/heirs/wannabe crime-solvers. First there’s Samantha Sultry (Natalie Pyle Smith), Pimbley’s ex-girlfriend, the smart, grounded dame; then Rose Sultry (Katie Jeffries), the one who’s just a wee bit… er, flirtatious; and finally Fred Silver (Matt Sparacino), the greedy, germaphobic businesstype. Soon, mysteries turn into absurdities, and it’s up to Pimbley to untie the knots, or at least not make things worse. Which, of course, he fails to do (both of them) – because it’s funnier that way.
And funny is what this play is about. It’s a pure funny delivery machine. There’s slapstick, and absurd digressions, and silly hats, and out-of-place Twitter references, and opportunities galore for Jeffries to ham up her parody of seduction to 11 and Langer to knock things over artfully, and puns. Lots of puns. Awful ones, like “Once I had my pants on the right way, everything was falling into place.” And smart ones, which are in a way even more awful (which makes them even more awesome to some of us), like when ex-girlfriend Samantha, talking to Pimbley about how it’s painful for the two of them to see each other, “Given all our history,” gets from him the response, “Just the one class on the history of secularization,” and then replies, “It was enough to destroy my faith in you.” There’s is indeed a sophistication in writing this dumb intentionally.
Jokes like those are not to everyone’s taste, alas. And because the play is all about the jokes, a play like this, alas, is not to everyone’s taste. Not even when there’s so many jokes that it doesn’t matter if one or two stretch a bit (like those Twitter jokes), because there’s one or two hundred more right behind it, and some (most) of those will hit the mark. Not even when the show is presented by such a talented and fleet-footed crew. Not even when it’s delivered with stage lighting that’s actually good at the Fringe (credit Jason Aufdem-Brinke) and the funniest trenchcoat of the season (from costumer Chelsea Kerl). Not even when there’s a bit of sweet romance, and a heaping helping of genuine mystery, will this be the play for some people.
I don’t understand those people.
See it if: You like the show’s title.
Skip it if: You don’t like the show’s title.