Private Lies

Private Lies

Private Lies

Anne Russel Theater

When improv connects, nothing is funnier. And when it fails, it rolls up the Titanic, the Lusitania, and the Hindenburg and buries careers. Tonight begins with great promise; over a dozen bright young students lead by the master of improv David Charles set out to mock Film Noir. Our bounding box is a big city, low life world struggling though the great depression in Anytown, USA. We collect prompts from the audience, select a secret word worth 100 applause points, a femme fatal and a few soon-to-be-dead bodies. As an aid decamp, a guest cue master Will Luera sits on stage, ready to toss out words or phrases whenever our hard-boiled detective Richard Lies (Charles) is lost for pithiness. A body, a motive and a grieving widow show promise, and then we are off into the dark and convoluted first act. A few laughs fly, some unintended physical comedy never hurts, and then darkness settles in for an hour. Cast members toss prompts back and forth, praying for a gag. A plot evolves, as slowly and painfully as any crime writer searching a dark alley for plot lead. My seat neighbor nods off, I grasp for notes, hoping to fill this page. The ideas remain elusive and I pray for the cast to receive divine guidance. Trapped in the center of the row, I stick it out. Mercifully, intermission arises, and I buy a wine in a sippy cup. What has hard boiled become?

I return for Act Two. My seat mates do not. Detective Lies dogs the case. A small break though. An uncomfortable flash back. Some thread tie together, jokes connect with some regularity. The cast seems more comfortable and more knowledgeable as to where their partners in humor are headed. A code word is said by Detective Lies, and we all applauded. By now the useless threads are discarded and the comedic promising ones rise to the top. The speakeasy scene gets laughs when a prop misfires. People are now awake, the audience more responsive, good thoughts in my brain push out the bad. I’m glad I stuck it out. You can never tell with comedy, but when it works, its gold, and when it doesn’t, its bar of gold tied around your neck as they toss your body in the East River.

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