Thomas Levine is on a deadline. He has to finish his seventh book in his Jim O’Reiley detective series or he probably won’t be getting paid. Levine is a youth author living in Edmonton, barely scraping by, mostly because his characters keep drinking his liquor. That’s the great aspect of Stage West’s production of …And Then, the Lights Went Out. It’s a play within a play, and the characters in Levine’s book yell at him and beg him keep writing or expand on their storyline. It’s a dangerous tightrope to balance on, as it could go badly very easily.
But it doesn’t go badly for Alberta born playwright Andy Garland, as his script has enough charm and wit to pull it off. The play tells of Jim O’Reiley, (Trevor Leigh) a private investigator who gets handed a case by Claire Valcourt (Chantal Perron) that leads him into lots of trouble. He’s lucky to have his assistant Lucy DeBrie (Siobhan Richardson) to find the leads in the case because he eventually finds himself in a tight situation with Duke Morrison (Sheldon Davis) who wants to have him killed and Bruno Dawes (Luke Marty) the muscle who will likely do it. Meanwhile, Thomas Levine (Warren Bain) is writing this novel in his warm Edmonton apartment and Nia Sloan, (Cosette Derome) his downstairs neighbours keeps checking in on him to see that he’s still alive while he battles interruptions from his landlord Adelle (Rennie Wilkinson).
Garland’s script is funny. It pokes fun at the film noir genre just enough, without going overboard. The detective story within the play is compelling and Leigh carries the story are his shoulders strongly. Both Perron and Richardson are both funny and engaging as the dominant women in this storyline and their interactions with each other is hilarious.
The other narrative that is happening at the same time, is less compelling. The relationship developing between Thomas and Nia is a little flat in comparison to the detective story and it’s not because Garland didn’t write it as well. Bain and Derome just can’t carry the storyline as well and therefore this storyline is less compelling and is a bit trite at times. It also feels a bit rushed in instances, quick to be resolved, so that the detective story can unfold.
On a whole Stage West’s production of …And Then, the Lights Went Out is clever and smart. Though one storyline doesn’t feature as much spark, the play is funny and clever and goes down easy.
…And Then, the Lights Went Out runs at Stage West until April 12th. More information is available online.
Photo: From left to right – Warren Bain as Thomas Levine, Cosette Derome as Nia Sloan, Sheldon Davis as Duke Morrison and Trevor Leigh as Jim O’Reiley.