Shattering Frame – Foot in the Noir

A REVIEW BY PANDORA LOCKS

Confession:  I watched a good amount of Scooby Doo when I was kid.  More embarrassing confession:  though I consider myself a fairly intelligent person, I rarely solved the mystery before Scooby and the gang pulled the mask off of the baddie.  I suddenly recalled these facts as I took in Annex Theater’s Shattering Frame written and directed by company member Trevor Wilhelms, subtitle: A Bridgette Miakowski Mystery.  

Frame places us in a noirish, dystopian universe complete with a rock jock mayor (Jacob Zabawa), who likes the sound of his own voice, a Kid (Liz Christmas) and her Sister (Mika J. Nakano).  When sis don’t return one night after going for a job interview of sorts, The Kid seeks the professional help of Bridgette Miakowski (Autumn Breaud), former deputy sheriff and current PI.  The two embark on a journey to uncover the city’s mysteries and find the missing dame.  If that synopsis sounds like a clichéd detective movie, it’s intentional.  The shtick is the play, complete with narration that relies heavily on similes and, for some reason, all the characters saying “hogwash” repeatedly.  

Christmas is a fun narrator to watch.  From her Casio sports watch to baggy leather pants (costumes by Kristina Green) she finds a way into each character’s psyche and personal space.  She is endearing and genuine.  Breaud, as the titular Miakowski, is a little more statuesque and enigmatic.  The character is written as a painfully stereotypical hard-edged ex-cop, so there’s that to consider, and she is pretty adorable, with that pensive wrinkle in her brow, but it gets a little one-note.  The most “transparent, accessible, and fun” person to watch is Zabawa.  He dances and cavorts around the stage while singing and pelvic thrusting his way into the hearts and minds of his adoring fans, I mean audience.  The finger guns are worth the price of admission.  David Iden and Nina Kearin scene steal as Sorin and Simon Belvedere, a couple of nerdy computer hackers who think they have the chops to do stand up comedy.  Oh, and hottie Sarah Heiderman pops in as the femme fatale, because you can’t have one of these without a femme fatale (fantastic name alert: Demi Gamorrah) and she does the job well and truly.

Annex has the deserved reputation for magically transforming their humble space for every show they do.  Frame has a sparse set with seating around the perimeter, the better to show of the intensely cool lighting concept by David Crandall, which is totally unique.  There are four large lights on the ground and the actors move them around.  And I don’t just mean around, I mean passing them in their hands simulating passing headlights of a car, standing in for streetlights, using eerie ground up face lighting for ambiance, etc.  Sound design was also just phenomenal with Martin Kasey and Rick Gerriets forming a jazzy two-piece (the “Sticky Ickys” , sax and drums, respectively).  The music provided those seedy blues undertones so essential for the legitimacy of a noir detective story.  They’re fantastic and they’ve got some serious fucking stamina – I don’t think they stopped playing for more than a minute or two the whole show.

BOTTOM LINE:   Annex likes to take risks and bounce off the wall, they rarely disappoint in putting forth thought- provoking work, and I, for one, am proud to say I’m a groupie.  Frame is top-notch engagement.  If the story values style over content, well, that’s sort of the definition of noir, right?  The actors are a joy to watch, the tech is crazy cool and the live music is aces.  This needs to be on your to-do list this weekend.

Running at Psychic Readings until April 16th.

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Email Pandora Locks at pandoralocks@gmail.com

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