What do you get when you put nursery rhymes in the seedy back alleys and darkened docks of a noir yarn? You get something twisted and delicious, like The City That Cried Wolf, now running at 59E59 Theaters.
We all know the way it goes: Hardened gumshoe is hired by a jealous husband to follow a beautiful but dangerous dame, things go awry, people get hurt, the gumshoe finds himself falling deep in a mystery he never could have predicted. Only this time there’s a twist. That hardened gumshoe is one Jack B. Nimble, the guy who’s hired him to track his wife is Mayor Humpty Dumpty, the wife is one Bo Peep, and the rest of the characters are right out of rhymes from bedtime. It’s a tale chockablock with adult themes told in a way that could keep even the youngest among us giggling. Playwright Brooks Reeves has filled the script with ‘dad jokes’ and punny nods to the source materials, providing enough winks and nods to keep things interesting for cool kids of all ages.
Adam LaFaci and Rebecca Spiro
The cast of characters is huge. From the aforementioned cracked egg to a delightfully dark pair of gleeful coroners called Hansel and Gretel to a gang of feathered ruffians that trade in drugs and women, the titular city is a dark place and there’s something foul afoot. Or is that fowl? It seems like the city wolf population has been hard at work causing death and destruction, and Detective Nimble is caught in the middle of a situation that may not be what it seems.
There are six actors—Holly Chou, Michelle Concha, Dalton Davis, Adam La Faci, Rebecca Spiro, Gwen Sisco, and Dalles Wilie—covering a cast of dozens. La Faci sticks to Nimble throughout and Concha and Spiro spend the majority of their time as Mother Goose and Bo Peep, respectively, leaving all the rest for a merry and versatile band of high-energy players, all of whom do a fabulous job of creating personalities as distinct as they are diverse. And they are very diverse. We got blind mice, police grunts, wary wolves, and at least a dozen other denizens of shadowy Rhyme Town. It’s difficult to pick favorites because they’re all so good and are required to play such different characters, though Wilie certainly throws himself into his parts with impressive vigor.
There are timely undercurrents about racial—or, in this case, species—profiling, media obligations, terrorism, police brutality and more. It isn’t a new play, but it plays fresh in the greater context of current national and world events.
Directed by Leta Tremblay, The City That Cried Wolf is nearly two hours of dark mischief, though the time flies once you’re fully immersed in the story. Jazz fills the air. The scenery is simple but beautifully done, with glowing neon illuminating the name of each venue as it’s introduced and enough grit and grime to make it feel fully lived-in. And you will want to live there, even after you get to whodunit. Get in while you can.
The City That Cried Wolf is playing at 59E59 Theaters through December 11, 2016.