Remember every noir film you’ve ever watched or hardboiled crime novel you’ve ever read? What comes to mind? A cynical detective, dangerous streets, rain, copious amounts of alcohol, and, of course, a beautiful femme fatale?
Even if you’ve steered clear of film noir and hardboiled fiction your whole life, chances are And Then The Lights Went Out might seem a bit familiar to you, as it plays off the well-known tropes of the noir genre. As Director David Johnston says, “Half of the play takes place in the dark and noir-y world of Jim O’Reilly, private detective as he unravels the toughest case of his career, filled with sexy dames and hulking bruisers, smoking cigarettes and dark alleyways, mean streets and smoking guns. And half of the play takes place in the apartment of Thomas Levine, the author of the Jim O’Reilly mystery series as he struggles to finish the seventh book of the series and struggles with writer’s block and the characters step out of the page and yell at him about what direction the story should go.”
According to David, the playwright Andy Garland masterfully blends reality and fiction into a show that’s both a comedy and a psychological exploration that explores the noir genre and comes out saying something new about it. “If you just repeat the elements of the genre – “Look! It’s a woman in a red dress!” – congratulations, you’re Scary Movie 4. You need to do something on top of that. It’s not about reinventing the wheel, because we’re using stuff that’s all been there before. It’s not about deconstructing it and taking it apart. It’s putting things together. We’ve been deconstructing things for so long, let’s put them together. See how good the engine is and watch how far it goes. Once you know the building blocks of any genre – horror or western or noir or any genre – you can piece it together in really interesting ways and find new connections you wouldn’t normally and send it rolling along.”
And Then the Lights Went Out‘s layered approach to storytelling requires a cast that is flexible and ready to try just about everything. When casting David says, “I was looking for people who could be funny, because the piece is a comedy at its heart. I was also looking for people who could turn on a dime and find those weighty emotional states… If you’re dealing with characters who are fully fleshed out and three-dimensional, then you can get a lot of comic moments and a lot of dramatic moments and you can use them to feed into each other and you can transform one into the other. A character who can suddenly stop being funny and start being just that level of energy but heart-wrenching and terrifying, you realize how much this means.”
Although And Then the Lights Went Out was set in Edmonton, this is the play’s Edmonton premiere. The show runs October 15 – 25 at the Walterdale Playhouse and, as David says, “everyone should come to it because you will laugh! And then you will feel… In that order.” Tickets are $10.75 – $18 from Tix on the Square.