For 26 years, Pegasus Theatre has been taking the color out of stage comedy. They do it in "Living Black and White," a trade-secret method of makeup, costume and scenery that strips all the color away onstage -- except for the slip of an actor's pink tongue or a glimpse of blue eyes.
Pegasus' current show, The Frequency of Death!, is another of resident playwright-actor Kurt Kleinmann's throwbacks to the good old black-and-white movies of the 1930s. Running through this weekend at the Eisemann Center in Richardson, then for a weekend at the MLC Grand in Lewisville, the show is a fast-moving murder-mystery comedy set in a radio studio.
Gathered for a live performance of a radio whodunit are Kleinmann's character, the always clueless "world famous detective and aspiring actor" Harry Hunsacker; his loyal and much smarter assistant, Nigel Grouse (Ben Bryant); and Harry's nemesis, Lieutenant Foster (Chad Cline), always two steps behind in the solving of any crime.
It takes most of the first act before the bodies start piling up, but once they do, the game's afoot. A mysterious entity named Dr. Big has taken over the airwaves of WKIL and if Harry and Nigel can't stop his evil plan, the whole building might blow up.
Directed with crisp pacing by New Yorker Robert Bartley, The Frequency of Death! has a dandy cast of actors who understand just how far to take the exaggerated style of a Pegasus production.
Susan Mansur, a Broadway veteran who now lives here, is in fine form as a tipsy, topsy-turvy Talullah Bankhead type. Christopher Curtis is tip-top, too, as the Orson Welles-like radio drama director who has to keep the show-within-the-show on the air, with the sound effects man (Ben Schroth) working himself into a froth.
Sure, it's silly stuff, but done in fine fashion. The scenery by Clare Floyd Devries has plenty of doors for slamming and tables for swooning on. Costumes by Samantha Rodriguez are elegant and period-accurate.
If you're craving another black-and-white homage to the movies of yesteryear after seeing the film The Artist, the Pegasus show will make you appreciate what it takes to achieve those effects in live theater.
The Frequency of Death! continues through January 22 at the Eisemann Center, Richardson. Then January 26-29 at MCL Grand Theatre, Lewisville. Call 972-744-4650.
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