(Brady Madsen (right) as Whisky baron Gordo Walker, planning out his daughter Fatalia’s wedding, a role played by Shannon Pitre, during a dress rehearsal of Tall Tale Theatre Company’s production of Commedia Noir at Rockstar Music Hall on Tuesday, October 1, 2019. Photo above by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.)
One of the year’s most refreshing and innovative plays ironically takes place in a rock music palace, Windsor’s Rock Star Music Hall, where it’s not uncommon to find rising stars breaking a few rules. To say it is a spectacular departure from the norms, or the mold, of much of today’s theatre is somewhat of an understatement.
There is rarely a similarity between the Gina Lori Riley Dance Enterprises partnering with Tall Tale Theatre Company’s Commedia Noir. Such ongoing and assuming departures from modern-day stage presentations gives the play a significant, but pleasing edge, which really makes it so entertaining. One of the highlights is its meticulous choreography in an exaggerated style that blends so beautifully with the play’s soundtrack.
This includes even the movements of the actors as they rearrange or add props for each new scene. In fact, this alone makes the play highly attractive to the mind because the action never really stops.
Then there are the male characters in the tale from 1929 Windsor and the era of Prohibition. All of the male characters, or those playing male characters. Each one wears a face mask. These reflect their personalities, not their facial expressions. The play’s Producer Eric Branget, one of the city’s best actors who says he is enjoying working behind the scenes, tells Eyes on Windsor the key benefit is being able to remove the regimented typical theatrical focus on faces into one in which the rest of the body is put to work to convey various emotions and actions.
It is not a new theatrical concept. Tall Tale’s Creative Consultant Gina Lori Riley traces this style of theatre, known as Commedia dell’arte, back to Italy during the third decade of the 1500s. This deliberate use of body language has often been used over the years, particularly in early motion pictures, and in particular the filmed antics of Charlie Chaplin for one. Such physical movement plays a major role in his comedy and those of many of his contemporaries.
Commedia Noir’s playwright Averey Meloche has put together a fascinating original tale that is as tall as the production company’s name and one that should not be missed.
He also takes on the role of the play’s key character, Harley, a paper boy verging on being an idiot, and even called one by the beautiful Fatalia acted to excessive delight by Shannon Pitre. Fatalia is Gordo Walker’s daughter, the man who runs a local distillery. For legal entanglements, the company must remain unmentioned.
Although Fatalia is quick to point out Harley’s intellectual failings, she is all for running off with him in the hope of finding a life of less predictability than being the heiress, and then manager, of a certain unnamed whisky company.
And true to a form of nothing being traditional, protagonist Harley, acted with exciting clarity by Averey Meloche, does not have a speaking part. His role is pantomimic, a considerable departure from tried and true theatrics, yet one able to add considerable brilliance to the production particularly Meloche’s ability to quietly express emotions with most of his facial features hidden.
More or less, mostly more, Commedia Noir unfolds much like a melodrama in which considerable dastardly deeds happen to be done dirt cheap by the usual suspects including Brady Madsen’s character P.I. Dote, a private investigating legend in his own mind. Madsen’s take on the character is one of considerable ambition, most of it uncalled for. He also does a stunning version of Gordo Walker, of that unmentionable whiskey company.
In the background, Michael Keating, as the Narrator, keeps the pace fast with his steady and authoritative delivery. Daniela Piccinin is cast as “Big Sleeps” Briggs, Walker’s enduring side kick and man Friday. As acted by Piccinin, Briggs is also a man of considerable ambition and is looking to wed his boss’s daughter for, of course, certain career benefits.
Shannon Pitre does double duty in Commedia Noir, finely and astutely filling the shoes of Chicago gangster Al Capano. For the role, she actually straps a pair of extra shoes around her knees . As to why, the play awaits.
The premier opens October 2nd, 7pm. Following performances are October 3rd and 4th, 7pm and October 6th, 1pm
On October 5th, at 6pm, there will be a very attractive dinner theatre performance complete with the play and augmented with a Rockstar Music Hall exquisite buffet of such options as beef stroganoff, roasted chicken, potatoes, and salad.
Commedia Noir is a joint presentation of the Tall Tale Theatre Co. and its partner for the event, Gina Lori Riley Dance Enterprises.
The Rockstar Music Hall is at 2418 Central Ave. Tickets are $15 for students, General admission $20 in advance or $25 at the door.
For more information visit https://www.talltaletheatre.com
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.