at Playhouse West
We file into the tiny theatre and take our seats. A large gray screen looms before us. The lights dim, then go out. The old deco-like Universal logo from the 1940s spins on the big screen, and the credits begin to roll. "Faithful, adapted from the stage play by Chazz Palminteri. Directed by Marty Sader and Laura Keys. Starring Kathleen Lambert, Matt Stasi, and Matt Bell." And so on. And then the live movie begins.
Yes, the live movie. Directors Sader and Keys, who are also respectively responsible for the striking lighting and set designs, have brilliantly turned Palminteri's will-he-or-won't-he-kill-her thriller play into a live stylish noir "film." The black-and-white living room of a Manhattan apartment, and the action within it, become visible through the transparent screen once the lights come up.
At the top of the show Maggie (Lambert) is bound to a chair and watched over by the menacing, gun-toting Tony (Stasi), who's been hired by Maggie's philandering husband, Jack (Bell), to rub her out. Trouble is, Tony's never killed a dame before, see? But he owes a lotta cabbage to some very unforgiving men, and so he felt compelled to take the job. And because Tony is known as a man of his word, Maggie must die—no matter how much he may come to care for her or want to help her exact revenge on her manipulative, cheating husband.
Accusations of faithlessness, and the emotional results of having endured it, plague all three of Palminteri's characters. Sader and Keys deftly direct their top-notch trio to confidently walk the fine line between distinct stylization and overblown caricature. The dramatic and the comedic elements—and there is a surprising amount of comedy—of the show play well because the directors have grounded their cast in the reality of this very specific world.
The uncredited classy 1940s attire, complemented by Eva Lohse's sharply stylized whiteface and shadow makeup design, beautifully add to the overall effect. This is one movie you don't want to miss; they don't make them like this anymore.
Presented by at and Playhouse West, Studio 3, 10634 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m. (Dark Sat. Mar. 4.) Feb. 24-Mar. 31. (818) 509-0865.
Reviewed by Terri Roberts