Billed as a “rollicking noir farce,” “Extreme Measures” seemed to have the right ingredients for a fun riff on the noir trope: the jaded detective, the snappy gal Friday, the sultry moll of the Big Guy gangster, the big guy gangster himself, the gritty office set against the backdrop of an even grittier city.
But even with these elements played by a very good cast of actors, the play scraped and bumped along on an unimaginative and tedious script for an hour that seemed infinite, like the last slow bus taking all local stops to Palookaville. Had writer-director Will Marchetti spent more time punching up the dialog with original words and story rather than on-the-nose statements and easy plot artifices, Extreme Measures could have been something.
Too often the writer mistook obscenity for emotion, and contrivance for spontaneity. Yes, “dick” can mean other things than detective. How many times, though? We get it. And how easy is it for the “dick” to spew “I hate this fucking dirty city” rather than say something more interesting, more Chandleresque perhaps, like “the streets were dark with something more than night.” And throwing in a Groucho disguise does not a farce make.
But what bothered me most about the script was its underlying meanness. Yes, it’s a bitter little world. Yes, noir stories can be dark. Injecting violence, as when the gangster beats the moll, or a dog dies in traffic because it ingested cocaine discarded by the dick, or a gay character is called “faggot,” does not move the story forward. It just comes across as uninspired bullying.
Trying their best with what they were given are some very good actors. Matt Shelton, like a coked-up Richard Widmark, carried what he could as the hapless and addicted gumshoe Swadye Barrigan. Shelton also did set design, lighting and construction. Livia Demarchi as the loyal and resourceful secretary Pascha Crane commanded the stage with her perfect timing and patter, like a Barbara Stanwyck but with boring dialog. The one who seemed to be having the best time was Matt Crawford, the literally larger than life gangster “Moose” Tringali who had quite the influence on the other characters, even forcing them to sing and dance “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love” and thus taking up a big slice of the already short play. Also enjoying his role as Argin Pierce Brewster, the wannabe actor who wanders into the detective’s office to audition for Julius Caesar, is John Ferreira.
“Extreme Measures” would have been so much better as improv which let the actors create a compelling and fun story instead of being led down the dead-end alley of such a lame script.
“Extreme Measures” continues at the Shelton Theater through May 14. For further information, click here.
“Extreme Measures” by Will Marchetti, produced by Shelton Theater. Directed by Will Marchetti. Set and Lighting design: Matt Shelton.
Swayde Barrigan: Matt Shelton. Livia Demarchi: Pascha Crane. “Moose” Tringali: Matt Crawford. Argin Pierce Brewster: John Ferreira. Marrow Larkin, Esq.: Colin Hussey. Cloris Fairchild: Megan Luis. Candy LaRue: Sonia Balcazar.