At its core, The Mysterious Mystery
is a classic detective story, and many of the character archetypes are included with a blatancy that is often absurd: there is the woman in a red dress, the corrupt political figure at the heart of a scandal, and the two-man team of detectives, one of whom is clearly the sidekick. There is also a clear effort on the part of the writer to achieve the kind of straight-shooting fast-paced dialogue, teeming with twists and misunderstandings, that was popularized in the 1940s by Raymond Chandler and film noir in general.
The Mysterious Mystery
also adds several devices that attempt to freshen up and modernize this genre. For one, the main characters are humorously unfit for their occupation as detectives, particularly the character Rico who fails to realize the sex of a cross-dressing bartender no matter how many clues come his way. The characters also have a kind of meta-awareness of the fact that they are part of a detective story. Perhaps the most difficult device to pull off, though, is in the script, which is teeming with sexual innuendo and references to homosexuality.
As can be the case with festivals, the audience must be able to forgive a half-baked show in order to enjoy it. Not only is The Mysterious Mystery
squelched by the 60-minute time constraint, but it also feels a lot like a rough draft. Much of the dialogue rings hollow in comparison to the exorbitant number of other detective stories that have been made in film, literature and theater, and many of the jokes and puns, which are meant to add spice, simply fall flat. The depiction of homosexuality also strives to be archetypal but comes across as stereotypical and dated (and not in a way that melds with its 1920s setting).
Here is a show that brings to the forefront another side of theater festivals--the kind of public workshopping that a show might be undergoing. Someday, we may see The Mysterious Mystery of Mystery Street
resurface in a more realized form. Then again, we may never see it again.
(The Mysterious Mystery of Mystery Stree
t plays at the Kraine Theater, 85 East 4th Street, through March 6, 2011. Remaining performances are Wednesday, March 2nd at 10:30pm, Friday, March 4 at 5:30pm, and Sunday, March 6th at 4pm. Tickets are $15, $10 for students and seniors, and can be purchased at smarttix.com
or call 212.868.4444. For more festival information visit frigidnewyork.info