A Shot in the Dark

By - May 1st, 2007 02:52 pm
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The Boulevard Ensemble closes its 21st anniversary season with a murder-mystery comedy by Harry Kurnitz, adapted from an original French work by Marecl Archard. It’s a fun, well-balanced comedy adeptly directed by the Boulevard’s Mark Bucher. Bucher has assembled a surprisingly good cast for the final show of a memorable 21st season of theatre in Bay View. I believe it was Alistair Cooke who said that a shot in the dark doesn’t take much time. Well, the Boulevard has certainly taken its time in getting to this one, ending its latest season with a production that feels deftly aimed.

The talented Joe Fransee holds together the center of the play as Magistrate Paul Sevigne, who is investigating the death of a Spaniard (Cesar Gamino). The action of the play takes place in Sevigne’s office as he interviews people who might’ve been involved in the murder and is aided in this work by Morestan – his chief clerk played by the ample Al Dobyns. Fransee’s charisma goes a long way here, but it’s the timing between Fransee and Dobyns that really pulls together the center of the play. All of the usual mucking about with exposition that goes on in a mystery is made all the more palatable by the interaction of Fransee and Dobyns. In places, they almost seem to be fencing with the dialogue, which isn’t done enough in local theatre. Fransee has a tight, crisp precision to the delivery of his lines that woks well with Dobyns overall affability.

The chief suspect in the murder of the Spaniard is his lover: parlor maid Yvette Lantenay, played by Anne Miller. Lantenay was found at the scene of the crime holding the gun that killed the victim just moments after his death. The Spaniard’s last words even implicated her as the murderer. In spite of all the evidence against her, it is clear that Lantenay did not commit the crime and a good portion of the play rests on the audience’s acceptance of this. We must not think for a second that Lantenay is the murderer; otherwise all of Sevigne’s work to find the true murderer would seem remarkably tedious. Here, the casting of Anne Miller is crucial. To her credit, Miller has a sweet, innocent stage presence; it would be very difficult to imagine Miller as a killer. This is staggeringly important, as the same could not be said of every actress in town. Bucher’s choice in casting Miller does wonders for the production. Other notable performances here include Liz Mistelle as Sevigne’s beautiful wife and Jennifer LaPorte as a wealthy lady of high society.

The decision to split the play’s three acts with two intermissions would seem a bit indulgent, but so much of the play relies on plot points revealed solely in the dialogue that two intermissions are welcome. Each intermission allows the audience some distance from the plot to turn it around and possibly figure out who the actual killer is. Bucher and company keep the action going fluidly throughout all three acts, making for a thoroughly enjoyable close to the Boulevard’s season. VS

The Boulevard Ensemble’s production of A Shot In The Dark runs now through May 6th at the Boulevard Theatre. For more information about tickets, call the Boulevard at 414-744-5757 or visit the Boulevard on the web at www.boulevardtheatre.com.

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