by Walter Bender

Forge Theatre in Phoenixville opened its latest offering, ADRIFT IN MACAO on Friday night. MACAO is a one-act musical “homage” to the film noir genre, with hard-boiled detectives, debonair nightclub owners, sexy singers in long gowns, and inscrutable henchmen. In fact, each of these stock characters appears in MACAO, and more.

Russ White, Diana Gagliardi, Gary Bullock in a scene from ADRIFT IN MACAO, playing at Forge Theatre in Phoenixville PA through January 22.

 Director (and last-minute cast member) Steve Schulz has assembled a cast of characters to play this cast of stock characters. Diana C. O. Gagliardi plays Lureena, the femme fatale in the slinky dress who becomes the featured singer in Rick’s (Russ White) nightclub/gambling emporium. Gary Bullock is Mitch, the grumpy loner with a secret, and Leigh Ann Brienza is Corinna, the other singer/entertainer at Rick’s nightclub who seems to enjoy every excess imaginable. They are joined by Dru Ullery and Allie Greet who fill in as chorus and other characters as needed. Finally, there is Tempura (Director Schulz coming to the rescue at the last minute), the inscrutable(?) Asian henchman/bandleader.

As one might expect of a parody of a genre that often makes fun of itself, the plot is threadbare, the tension is hardly gripping, and the secrets are rarely secret for long. These are all GOOD things. The cast of this show obviously have done their homework, as each of them portrays their characters with all the stereotyped movements, gestures, and overacted line delivery…and then they take it one tiny step further, making the show a lot of fun to watch. I especially loved Ms. Brienza’s character, who plays the hooker with the heart of gold so well, exaggerating every step, every expression, pulling the most out of her character. Mr. White’s song in the second act is a showstopper (literally), and has the audience laughing throughout. And Mr. Schulz does an amazing job as Tempura, only stumbling once or twice with lines with a character who is onstage most of the performance! I did see the “cue cards” that Mr. Schulz used for his songs…nice touch, and nice improv when they didn’t flip fast enough.

The show runs about 95 minutes with no intermission, so be prepared for a long sitting, but ADRIFT IN MACAO is a fun evening. Folks who are fans of film noir will appreciate the homage, and those not familiar with the genre will still find much to enjoy. Congratulations to Forge Theatre for picking a show that isn’t seen often and doing it well.

Book and Lyrics by Christopher Durang
Music by Peter Melnick
Directed by Steve Schulz
January 7 – 22, 2011
Forge Theatre
241 First Avenue
Phoenixville, PA 19460

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