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Scarlet Woman, Noirtastic Femmes (FRIGID New York 2011)

by Antonio Miniño on March 3, 2011

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Candy Simmons in Scarlet Woman

Candy Simmons in Scarlet Woman

Simple: if you love a good murder mystery and film noir you will enjoy Scarlet Woman. Matthew Well’s play has more twists and turns than a twizzler, and actresses Candy Simmons and Megan Hill love chewing on that licorice!

Carmine (one of the characters played by Candy Simmons), is a woman who can’t get a recent fire out of her mind, except she can’t really remember the details! Off she goes to find out who killed her father. Her clue? One of his former lovers who sends her off on a wild noir chase to another lover… and that lover to another… and another… you get it. Megan Hill does a great job at physically transforming into the different smokey ladies and even a couple of  dandies.

The play contains everything you would expect in a film noir movie: stylish costumes, cigarette smoke, campy dialogue, crazy plots, and the wrongly accused. Director Rob O’Neill has a wonderful grasp for comedy and shadows (great use of a white screen to project silhouettes  and bring other characters to life). The production succesfully captures a bleak tone within all the laughter and a lot of it has to do with Candy Simmons’ genuine portrayal of a perplexed woman in desperate need of answers.

The film noir style is captivating and the spoofing of it makes for a raving good time. The actors fully enjoy responding to the elements of the genre happening around them (was that an organ serving as a soundscape to my dramatic moment? oh it’s the church across the street). However, the play could use less questions and some trimming, some elements and jokes are repeated just one too many times (Carmine’s stylistic response to the word “fire” comes to mind); one less twist would keep us interested all the way through the end. For the most part playwright Matthew Wells is successful at keeping the audience guessing.

Very impressive in a festival setting is the lighting design by Philip W. Sandström, a very important element if you are trying to recreate film noir on stage. Kudos should go as well to costume consultants Emily Bradley & Sharon Nowlan.

If you aren’t a fan of film noir this Scarlet Woman still stands on its own as a funny stylized comedy. If you are completely oblivious to the genre, wouldn’t it be funny to learn a film style through the stage? Funny being the operative word.


Scarlet Woman
Written by Matthew Wells & Directed by Rob O’Neil
Presented by SunsetGun Productions Minneapolis, MA
The Kraine Theater (85 East 4th Street) $16
Wed 2/23 @ 10:30pm, Sat 2/26 @ 1pm, Sun 2/27 @ 5:30pm, Tue 3/1 @ 7:30pm, Wed 3/2 @ 6pm, & Sat 3/5 @ 2:30pm

FRIGID New York Festival 2011  runs February 23-March 6 at The Kraine Theater & The Red Room (85 East 4th Street between 2nd Ave and Bowery) and UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place between 1sr Ave and Ave A). Tickets ($10-$16) may be purchased online at or by calling Smarttix at 212-868-4444. All shows will run 60 minutes long or less.

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