“The Frequency of Death”
Pegasus Theatre, price Richardson
December 31, rx 2011–January 22, 2012

 

Kurt Kleinmann’s Pegasus Theatre inaugurates the new year with an original play from his company’s unique niche — the trademarked In Living Black & White production style. In 2012 Pegasus delights its audiences with a revamped, refreshed version of a production drawn from its 1980s Deep Ellum incarnation, “The Frequency of Death!” Set in the recording studio of radio station WKIL, the play spoofs the melodramatic style of 1930s  black-and-white movies with a murder mystery within a murder mystery, featuring a cast of loveable cranks, curmudgeons and distressed dames and damsels.

Familiar goofballs like “world famous detective and aspiring actor,” the bumbling Harry Hunsacker (Kurt Kleinmann), and his handsome sidekick Nigel Grouse (Ben Bryant), match wits with the disembodied evil Dr. Big as the wacky radio station staff attempts to produce a program with live sound effects. This zany romp, replete with elements of Marx Brothers mayhem and Thin Man references, dishes up a laugh a minute.

Helming this year’s production is Equity New York director Robert Bartley, creator of the successful Broadway Backwards Aids Fundraiser. Bartley’s superb timing instincts create a fabulous flow of stage moments that allow the tongue-in-cheek script to shine. His cast functions beautifully, each actor focused on creating a cohesive ensemble performance. Broadway and Off Broadway veteran star Susan Mansur plays delusional, dipsomaniac, aging radio “star” Miriam Andrews with bubbling abandon, as if channeling Carol Burnett or Elaine Stritch. The audience can’t wait to see what her every entrance cattily unleashes. Mansur’s acting talents, coupled with Bartley’s directorial skill, energize the humor of this production. Pegasus Theatre veteran Ben Schroth plays Art, the nerdy sound effects man with a seedy past, with such studied deadpan commitment to his repeated garish interruptions he makes one’s fingers ache for a murder weapon.

A sultry stunning addition to the program, torchy chanteuse Simone Gundy, warms up the crowd in front of the curtain and sets the 30’s scene with a jazzy set of classic tunes, ranging from “Johnny One Note” to “Pennies form Heaven.” Samantha Rodriguez’ costumes, with a perfectly ridiculous “radio antenna” chapeau for Mansur’s diva, carry forward the play’s themes and the Pegasus Theatre’s signature “black and white” visuals. At finale, everyone eagerly waits to see what version of Lady in the Red Dress emerges from the grey-scale environment. Aaron Patrick Turner’s sweeping blood-red gown on producer Barbara Weinberger is simply to die for.

— ALEXANDRA BONIFIELD
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