REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams



By Don Nigrothe den theatre

Directed by Ron Wells

At The Den Theatre, Chicago

Laconic homage to ‘film noir’ works to recreate the atmosphere of those ’40’s “B” films

It sure seems that prolific playwright Don Nigro has the self referential dialog of those tongue-in-cheek mystery films from the ’40 & ’50’s down pat. His world premiere, City of Dreadful Night is a smart, coy, and full engaging 90 minute mystery reminiscent of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and James M. Cain novels turn into black and white films.

the den theatre

After seeing the diner and the city paintings of Edward Hopper, City of Dreadful Night is filled with stock film noir characters. From the hard bitten gangster type, Gus (Matthew Isler) to his WWII shell-shocked friend Tony (Sam Guinan-Nyhart) to the glib short-order cook at the diner, Philly (Ben Hertel) to the mysterious femme fatale, Anna ( Justine Turner) –City of Dreadful Night unfolds as a true mystery.  Gus is paranoid about his girl Anna believing that she is cheating on him. He enlists Tony to follow her to find out the truth.

the den theatre

When Tony is discovered following Anna, ( byAnna herself ) the  twisted mixture of past and present unfolds as a clever, taut, edge-of your seat tale of mystery, romance and suspense filled with sly humor and smart plotting. The actors are dedicated to keeping the unique film noir style talk and retorts that mark the genre. I especially like the stilted character of Tony deftly played by Sam Guinan-Nyhart whose timing was impeccable.

Without revealing more, trust me that you will be fully engaged as you try to guess what will happen next as the plot is woven into a mystery worthy of your attention. The look is accurate, the players fully committed, and writing is intricate. This is a stylish world premiere nicely paced and tightly directed by Ron Wells.  Who doesn’t like a well-structured mystery? City of Dreadful Night is a terrific suspenseful work deserving of an audience.


Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: February 15, 2013

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout the City of Dreadful Night page at

At The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL,, Tickets: $25 .  Available at, Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 90 minutes without intermission, through March 16, 2013





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