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Theater review: 'LA Noir Unscripted' at Theatre Asylum

May 14, 2010 | 10:30 am
400.LA NOIR UNSCRIPTED - Prod. Still 1 While filming “The Big Sleep,” Howard Hawks asked author Raymond Chandler who killed a certain victim. Chandler’s famous response: He had no idea. Hard-boiled plots can get lost in their own fog, a danger that bedevils “LA Noir Unscripted,” the latest improvisational hijinks from Impro Theatre.

The deadpan troupe, which has created original comic plays nightly in the style of Jane Austen, Tennessee Williams and Shakespeare, now dons fedoras and fishnets for this droll excursion into B-movie territory.

Last Sunday, audience suggestions for a location (Santa Monica) and two objects (a trumpet and cigarette case) sparked the story of a Portuguese drug dealer (Stephen Kearin) pushed off the pier. Eyewitnesses to the attempted murder included a restless Glendale newlywed (Jo McGinley) and her neurasthenic husband (Nick Massouh). Bullets flew as Det. Jamison (Dan O’Connor) trailed the mysterious gangland figure Kuti Lobo (Brian Lohmann), his hunt punctuated by music cues from noir classics.

The pleasure of Impro is its tightrope walk of sustained improvisation. The possibility of failing — or at least stumbling — gives its work its giddy buzz. The show I caught wasn’t its best; it lacked mid-scene surprises as well as a satisfying ending. But on average, I’ll bet O’Connor and crew know how to follow a clue: these angels with dirty faces play well with pulp.

– Charlotte Stoudt

“LA Noir Unscripted” Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends June 13. $20. Contact: (323) 401-9793 or Running time: 90 minutes.

Photo: Michele Spears, from left, Tracy Burns, Edi Patterson and Kari Coleman. Photo credit: Blake Gardener.