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Theater review: 'Kill Me, Deadly' at Theatre of NOTE

July 7, 2009 |  2:00 pm

KissMe Like one of its hot lead telegrams from the business end of a Smith and Wesson, "Kill Me, Deadly" at Theatre of NOTE delivers the goods in spades. Set in 1947 Hollywood, where life is as cheap as a chalk-stripe suit, Bill Robens' smart, snappy parody of hard-boiled noir comes complete with jaded gumshoe, a dame in distress -- and plenty of moid-ah.

As Charlie Nickels, the shamus with low morals and high ideals, Dean Lemont has the hangdog mug and rugged bearing befitting a man for whom opportunity usually knocks with a punch in the gut. Charlie may not be the sharpest shiv in the cutlery collection -- his wise-cracking secretary (Lynn Odell) supplies the real crime-solving brainpower -- but he's been around the track and breezes his way through the hyperbolic similes in the tongue-twisting Raymond Chandler-esque narration.

Charlie's latest case involves a 300-karat blood-red diamond (that comes with a curse, natch) and a menaced widow (Kathleen Mary Carthy) who's lousy with dough and hated by all. At the center of the intrigue sits scarlet-clad femme fatale Mona, a nightclub torch singer and vibraphonist vamped to the hilt by hilarious Kirsten Vangsness (on the lam from TV's "Criminal Minds"). "I try to be good, I really do," she pouts in spot-on Judy Garland intonations, "but who has time these days?" Charlie may be a chump for letting down his guard, but like he says, "falling in love with a broad you can trust is like reading a book you already know the ending to."

Kiff Scholl's stylized staging employs period props, directed lighting, and, when needed, cheesy video effects like the hypnodisc spiraling above the drugged Charlie's head during his hallucinatory roundup of suspects: the client's smarmy bookworm son (Nicholas S. Williams), her equestrian daughter (Megan Bartle, a Lauren Bacall blond with gams that stretch to Tijuana), their snooty British butler (Ezra Buzzington), an erudite gardener (Phinneas Kiyomura), and the hired muscle (Darrett Sanders) who feels really, really bad about having to get rough. In a line of work where people typically pass out or die just before giving you the one piece of information you need the most, the question is: Which of these low-lifes are headed for the big sleep? Don't be a sap -- see this one and find out.

-- Philip Brandes

"Kill Me, Deadly," Theatre of NOTE, 1517 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Aug. 1. $22. (323) 856-8611. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.

Photo: Dean Lemont and Lynn Odell. Credit: John Money