That lovable buffoon, Harry Hunsacker and his sharp sidekick Nigel Grouse, are back in Pegasus Theatre’s annual homage to Film Noir in Death on Delivery! Pegasus has made quite a reputation by staging these plays that recreate the sensation of watching a black and white film. Using special gray makeup, costumes and sets, we are drawn into the world of detective films, back in the day when dialogue was pointed, snappy and cynical. Written by Kurt Kleinmann and directed by Michael Serrecchia the “Black and Whites” (17 to date) are described as “affectionate spoofs” of the murder mysteries filmed in the 1930’s and 40’s.
In Death on Delivery! Harry finds himself in the hospital, lending moral support to Lieutenant Foster, whose baby daughter has just been born. Poor Lieutenant Foster finds himself on the losing end of a battle with his wife, Beverly “Bubbles” Foster, who insists on naming their child after Harry, and her mother, who’s constantly mocking her son-in-law. As “luck” would have it, a murder occurs when Beverly’s roommate, Nora Rogers, dies suddenly, from poisoning. Other murders follow (naturally)and it’s up to Lieutenant Foster, Grouse and Hunsacker to find the culprit, before this killing spree gets out of hand. Meanwhile, we’re treated to Harry’s tender side as he waves at the Foster’s baby daughter through the nursery window, in his own awkward, adorable way.
This time around, Scott Nixon has taken on the role of Harry Hunsacker, once performed by Kleinmann himself. The formula is intact. Hunsacker, who couldn’t fill his own gas tank, appropriates a murder case from Foster, by virtue of being in the near vicinity. He bumbles his way through the mystery, while Grouse protects his fragile ego, and Foster grumbles over Harry’s interference. Like Miss Marple, Hunsacker seems something of a meddler, but not as smart. We love Harry, because he just wants to be a detective so badly, that (goshdarnit!) he should be.
Michael Serrecchia bring his resourceful comic chops to the affair, though it’s a shame they lost the big band crooner, which provided warmth and context before the actual show. Comparing the Harry Hunsacker series to other more familiar sleuths: Jane Marple, Nick and Nora Charles and Hercule Poirot, it’s interesting to note that while these yarns maintained a consistent comedic thread, the murders themselves were treated seriously. That is to say: the deaths were never mere plot points. Imagine if the content were as sophisticated as phenomenal stagecraft? Comedy could still be part of the mix without diminishing the result.
Pegasus Theatre presents a Living Black & White production of Death on Delivery! Playing December 31st, 2016- January 22nd, 2017. Charles W. Eisemann Center, 2351 Performance Drive, Richardson, Texas 75082. 972-744-4650. www.eisemanncenter.com