Monday, September 24

One-act puts twist on classic ’40s


One-act puts twist on classic ’40s

Ingenious direction and comic acting make for appealing "Tangled
Snarl"

By Jennifer Richmond

Daily Bruin Staff

Theater is at its best when it’s short, sweet and unbelievably
funny. John Rustan and Frank Semerano’s "The Tangled Snarl" is all
those things.

Set in 1940s Los Angeles, the 45 minute one-act follows private
dick, Spuds Idaho (Lee Ryan) on another case. Just like most of the
old radio shows of the ’30s and ’40s, not only do audience members
get to follow Idaho as he discovers each clue, but they also get
treated to an onslaught of one-liners.

But while these, at times corny, one-liners work miracles, it’s
Ryan’s comic timing and delivery that gets the laughs.

Idaho hates smoking. So, every time femme fatale Leslie
Detweiller (Lynn Lowry) tries to light a cancer stick, Idaho puts
it out. But he does so in very bizarre ways, from simply breaking
the cigarette in two to squirting an old water spitting fire
extinguisher at her from across the stage.

As much as Idaho hates Detweiller’s habit, the two seem to get
along ­ very well. She visits Idaho to collect a "package" her
hubby left with him for safe-keeping. Unfortunately, during the
exchange, Detweiller’s husband was bumped off by an unknown
assassin.

Idaho is forced to tell Mrs. Detweiller in his blunt and
uncaring way that Mr. Detweiller was killed, making her the unhappy
widow. But to no one’s surprise, she’s not all that unhappy. She’s
more interested in the package and Idaho rather than her husband’s
funeral service. This makes Idaho more than a little suspicious, so
before handing over the package, he inquires to see if she knows
anything about the murder or why the package is so important.

Although Detweiller answers Idaho straight, he’s still unsure
about the situation, as relayed through his thought monologues to
the audience. Ryan uses the same deadpan expression that
accompanies all of his lines. This constant expression creates the
comic tributes that compliment the humor of the one-act.

They’re like the rest of him ­ twisted, blunt and so
complex that it’s a treat just to watch Ryan try to say the five
minute speech without getting tongue-tied. But the real treat is
watching the other cast members while he’s talking.

They’re supposed to be frozen. But because Idaho tends to be
long winded, they can’t hold their position for too long. Although
their slow movements seem like a terrible mistake made by bad
actors, it becomes obvious through Robert Stadd’s direction that
their actions are all part of the production’s cute slapstick.

It takes a special sort of talent to direct a short comedy so it
rolls along rather than having uneasy starts and stops. Stadd seems
to have the gift. Stadd’s blocking is wonderful and the idea of
having the actors move even though they’re supposed to be frozen is
ingenious.

When the audience first sees this clever blocking, Detweiller is
held at gun point by The Man (Nicholas Cascone). Because Idaho goes
on and on, their arms get tired and slowly fall. But before they
fall too far, the two catch themselves and straighten up. This act
continues several times creating chuckles among audience
members.

Another incident similar, but much funnier, is when Idaho goes
off yet again and everyone freezes except The Kid (Daniel
McFeeley). It’s almost like the rules don’t apply to him. He uses
his moment in the spotlight to the best of his ability, but is
unfortunately cut short when Idaho flashes him an ugly look
accusing him of stealing his scene. The entire moment is
priceless.

Although the actors deserve much of the credit for not allowing
their lines to get in the way of their concentration, it’s really
Stadd who deserves much of the credit. He gives a whole new twist
to the classic radio show of the ’40s.

STAGE: "The Tangled Snarl." Written by John Rustan and Frank
Semerano. Directed by Robert Stadd. Starring Lee Ryan and Lynn
Lowry. Running through Oct. 16 at the Santa Monica Playhouse.
Performs Fridays at 10:30 p.m. and Sundays at 8 p.m. TIX: $12 with
discounts available for students. For more info call: (310)
394-9779 x1.

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