Meanwhile . . . a noir-spoof mystery at the Ruba Ballroom

Philadelphia has quite the noir pedigree. It was home to William McGivern, author of the source material to such hard-boiled classics as Rogue Cop and The Big Heat, and David Goodis, whose Philadelphia-set novel Down There was adapted (relocated to Paris) into the seminal French new wave film Tirez sur le pianiste (“Shoot the Piano-Player”) by director Francois Trauffaut. Dashiell Hammett even lived here for a couple years before creating iconic noir characters Nick and Nora Charles and Sam Spade.

But noir isn’t all Double Indemnity and Nick and Nora — much of it is pulpy genre product, ripe for spoofing. And if there’s one theater company in town you can trust to do a sympathetic but wholly farcical send-up of a genre, it’s BRAT Productions.

From its early success with Conor McPherson’s shaggy dog monologues, through its irregular reprisals of a 24-hour version of Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano, to its uproariously silly take on Stephen King’s Carrie, the company has had a solid focus on the fun side of theater. BRAT suffered something of a setback last year, when the sudden departure of its artistic director forced a programmatic rethink, but its tongue-in-cheek “fringing” of the Irish Play Festival and grab-bag cabaret nights at the Live Arts / Fringe official bar have signaled a solid return to its roots.

Meanwhile … is the latest evidence of this. Written by co–artistic director Madi Distefano and directed by the company’s other co-AD  Lee Ann Etzold, Meanwhile … is described as  a “quick-change play in which two performers play all twelve characters.” Using stock characters from crime noir and mid-century pulp fiction, Distefano has created a slick and sexy whodunnit whose stylish language and wit is sure to entertain.

Official opening is tonight (November 2), and the play runs through November 19 at RUBA Ballroom, 416 Green Street in Northern Liberties, Philadelphia. More info at, tickets available at Brown Paper Tickets.

Published by Arts America.

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