Gumshoe Productions: “The Big Sleep of Philip Marlowe” OPENS on July 6
JULY 6 – 22
THE BIG SLEEP OF PHILIP MARLOWE
By Kenneth Ansloan
Playwright and Director Kenneth Ansloan will present an hilarious homage to the famous film noirs of the 1940’s and 1950’s (Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, North by Northwest, with a little Sunset Boulevard thrown in for good measure) this July with his original play, The Big Sleep of Philip Marlowe. We asked him about this unique production, and how Gumshoe Productions diverges from his lifelong enterprise, The Dolls of Albuquerque.
ABQ Arts: The conventions of the noir story — the crusading detective, the femme fatale, the black-and-white backdrops, the smoky ambience — will they remain intact in the play? In fact, will you spoof these conventions themselves?
Ansloan: They most certainly will remain intact in our play. I have been a fan of film noir since seeing Double Indemnity as a teenager. From the moment Barbara Stanwyck appeared in the film at the top of the staircase wearing only a towel, an anklet, and a come-hither stare, I was hooked. I love the ambience of film noir. Film noir literally means “black film” and was coined by French film critics because of how dark and treacherous the films were. I’m also a sucker for the camera angles, the pacing, and the snappy dialogue. I mean, where else can you hear dialogue like, “I never loved you, Walter, not you or anybody else – I’m rotten to the heart.” That’s from Double Indemnity, by the way. You know that half of Barbara Stanwyck’s character, Phyllis Dietrichson, means what she says and half of her doesn’t. But which half will triumph?
The femme fatale, in her way, was very empowering. That icon gave relief to the usual simpering heroine roles that actresses were resigned to. Not that there’s anything wrong with a simpering heroine, but give me a dame who kills her husband and seduces a detective to cover the dirty deed any day!
And I don’t really want to call my play a spoof. It’s true, almost any film noir you can think of is in our play, from the Mount Rushmore scene in North By Northwest to getting hot coffee thrown in your face as in The Big Heat. But they are all carefully woven into the plot. I would like to consider this an homage to all those wonderful films with Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, and Robert Mitchum.
ABQ Arts: Tell us about the multimedia aspects and the rest of the set/costume design.
Ansloan: Black and white is such an intrinsic part of film noir. So all of our costumes are varying shades of black, white, and grays. As are our makeup and set pieces. With The Dolls (in the past), I wanted everything to resemble an MGM musical, so this is a great departure. I was worried about losing the lavishness of color but it is amazing how lush black, white and grays can be be – if you put your mind to it!
ABQ Arts: The Big Sleep of Philip Marlowe connotes a mash-up, but this play is an homage. Is your plot an amalgam, an original, or both? Can you give us a one-sentence synopsis?
Ansloan: Well, Philip Marlowe has to be the most famous of all film noir detectives. He first appeared in the novel The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. When I found out that Philip Marlowe is now public domain, I knew I had to have him as my detective. And, as we all know, The Big Sleep means “death.” My play opens up with the death of Philip Marlowe. Marlowe is put into the body of a mild-mannered accountant, Louis Dater, and together they try to solve Philip’s murder. To describe the play in one sentence: “Philip Marlowe sets out on his biggest case…solving his own murder, and he has to do it in the body of Louis Dater. Together they go through every treacherous calamity known to film noir!” I know that was two sentences. But, hey…this is film noir and you have to take liberty!
ABQ Arts: Will there be background music?
Ansloan: Background music is essential to film noir. There is not nearly as much background music as there is in an actual film noir, but I took a great pains in choosing the music. Hopefully we suggest a lot of the music with our direction and acting. I am constantly telling my actors – “This is your big close-up. Hear the music!”
ABQ Arts: Does this play represent a fresh start for you as a scriptwriter?
Ansloan: This play is different in many ways. Dolls’ shows in the past have been very specific to our group. I feel, with this play, that it could have a life well beyond this production. Morever, it could be done by any theatre group (with or without drag). Also, Dolls’ shows in the past have been female-dominated with a strong female lead. This differs in that not only does it have a male lead…it has two male leads. And they are played simultaneously by one actor. I know that is pushing boundaries and I feel that we are pushing a lot of boundaries with this show. That is why I am very proud that The Big Sleep of Philip Marlowe is Gumshoe Productions’ first show. It is a highly physical show. I guess you could say we are substituting glitz and glam with grit and grime!
Photos by Russell Maynor.
TOP: COLIN A BORDEN AS PHILIP MARLOWE/LOUIS DATER.
MIDDLE: AJ CARIAN AS MADELINE MORE, MISTY MORE, AND MILDRED PIERCE; WITH COLIN A BORDEN.
PLAY WILL BE PERFORMED AT NORTH FOURTH THEATRE, 4904 4TH ST. SW. GO TO: holdmyticket.com
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