By Dashiell Hammett
Adapted by Terry McCabe
Directed by Adrianne Cury
At City Lit Theater
Detective drama filled with wit and droll humor
Cit Lit Theater is expert at adaptations of novels, films and radio programs for the stage. Their latest production–The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett, adapted by Terry McCabe, is a reasonably enjoyable mystery filled with humor and suspense. Hammett’s last novel tells the story of Nick Charles (William Bullion), a droll heavy drinking retired private detective unwillingly drawn into solving a murder in 1932 (Prohibition Era) Manhattan. Nick and his extremely clever wife Nora (Christina Gorman)–a Lillian Hellman clone, share subtle humor and much booze as they wrestle with a complex murder mystery.
The details of Hammett’s mystery almost defy explanation and they require your keen attention. Terry McCabe’s smart adaptation and director Adrianne Cury casting exuded a quirky collection of characters that usually populate 30’s mystery shows. They’re all here form the ditsy blond to the tough police detective to the ex-con to the nasty family matriarch. The complex mystery unfolds through Nick Charles who not only is the main character but he acts as the narrator. Once William Bullion relaxes and stops flubbing lines, his performance will soar. On opening night, Bullion carried the story as he recovered effective from his miscues. Steve Ratcliff, Christina Gorman and Benjamin Sprunger were also quite effective.
The production suffered from a much too frantic pace as several actors raced through their lines. A slower pace would let the dramatic tension and the mystery build more effectively. But the sheer wit and fine writing with excellent ensemble work prevailed to make for an engrossing fun suspense play. Fans of mysteries will enjoy The Thin Man.
At City Lit Theater, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr, Chicago, IL, call 773-293-3682, www.citylit.org, tickets $25, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time 2 hours and 15 minutes with intermission.