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'Noir': A light frolic through old film traditions

Take elements from film noir versions of the hard-boiled detective, add the zany style of sketch comedy, mix with a dash of improv and shake (not stir)—you’ll have something very like “Noir” by Alex Prather.

“Noir” follows the time-honored pratfalls of the Reduced Shakespeare Company with a focus on the Humphrey Bogart school of detective film. Poteet’s production of this show is directed by Prather and stars Andrew Himes, Kyle Anderson, Connor Anderson, and Alex Prather (the same), with an assist from stage manager Brayson Williams.

Himes plays the unifying character of hard-boiled PI Val Lance (“like the curtains”) who is trying to track down a murderer at the behest of the femme fatale Bernadette, played by Prather, who makes a very believable bearded lady—several of them, in fact. Kyle Anderson plays another library of characters, and the quick changes of costume and attitude keep both Prather and Anderson jumping.

Connor Anderson is “the stagehand” who actually is a stagehand, occasionally visible backstage carrying props and costumes. He also provides some audience direction for the inevitable and entertaining audience participation components. Connor Anderson also serves as a dresser, along with Williams, during the madcap recap section.

Prather is a local actor and playwright, and this production is essentially a world premiere of this updated version of his original 2012 script. The story makes use of some very effective conceits. A series of black-and-white film clips and titles on a screen at stage right handle much of the background business, including the usual preshow announcements and a reminder of where we are in the show when we come back from intermission. The filmed segments and show titles are amusing in and of themselves, and in context they generate quite a bit of laughter.

The show is a string of episodes, each with its own little plot and each with a lead-in to the next. The scenes, clearly enumerated in the program in case one gets lost, are distinct encounters between the Detective (under various highly recognizable pseudonyms) and different possible suspects. Prather and Kyle Anderson are both experienced improv performers; the skills that make for successful improv work are more than useful in this show, which intentionally incorporates elements of improv in a number of places. Overall, “Noir” is light and frothy entertainment, well performed and lots of fun.

The scenes involve venues from a dark alley to professional offices and many other places in between; Prather and his team make very effective use of the Poteet turntable to change the scene quickly. The costume pieces are used to paint in the characters we see; costumer Kristy Johnson has put together a costume library for this show that is well chosen and funny. Actor Himes is also the technical director and, with Jay Prock, designed the set.

“Noir” runs Thursday through Sunday at Poteet Theatre located inside St. Luke’s United Methodist Church at 222 N.W. 15th Street, Oklahoma City, now through April 26. Curtain time is 7:30 on Thursday evenings; 8:00 Friday-Saturday evenings; and 3:00 on Sundays. “Noir” includes a 15 minute intermission and has a running time of just under two hours.