The dark and foggy cinematic world of film noir is given a theatrical twist in Sam Tower + Ensemble’s 901 NOWHERE STREET, where young anti-heroines (portrayed by Emilie Krause, Anna Szapiro, Merri Rashoyan, and Lauren Tuvell) dominate the traditionally male detective genre, and men are heard about but not seen. Directed by Tower, Jeremy Gable’s script employs the dated cheeky lingo, familiar characters (the woman in distress, private eye, femme fatale, con artist, murder victim), and ubiquitous accessories (cigarettes, a martini, and a suitcase) from a 1940s crime thriller. But this ambitious updated parodic version of the classic murder mystery also interjects anachronistic references, including slang, electronic music (composition and performance by Alec MacLaughlin), and songs from later decades (“Crazy,” “What’s New, Pussycat,” “Helter Skelter”), along with the favorite Philadelphia-Fringe format of ensemble-devised movement, all of which break the sultry vintage mood with a staccato and anomalous post-modernism. Though investigator Michelle Flynn (played by Rashoyan) declares, “I like my stories linear,” 901 NOWHERE STREET is anything but!
While the characters’ recurrent use of morphine invokes a muddled perception of their story, actions, and flashbacks, and a ballet-dancing white horse (Caitlin Dagle) evokes a drug-induced fantasy world, period-style costumes (by Tower), tenebrous lighting that casts long shadows (Andrew Thompson), haunting sound (Aziz Naouai), and the appropriately smoky voice of fictional nightclub singer Olivia L’Amour (Tuvell) effectively recall the ambience of an eerie old-time mystery in the murky basement venue (set by Tower; installations by Kevin Meehan). [Power Plant Productions, 233 N. Bread Street] September 8-17, 2015; fringearts.com/901-nowhere-street.