Daily Herald Tribune
May 1, 2008

Two one-act plays full of comedy says director

The Messy Adventures of Dick Piston, Hotel Detective opens at Second Street Theatre May 8

Diana Rinne/Encore!
Left to right: Brandon Carpenter, Robyn Embury, Alicia Shaw, Adrian Tanasichuk and Evan Perret rehearse a scene from The Messy Adventures of Dick Piston, Hotel Detective.
Photo: Diana Rinne

The spirits of Dick Tracy and Humphrey Bogart will be channelled with a slight twist as Grande Prairie Live Theatre presents the last show of the season The Messy Adventures of Dick Piston: Hotel Detective.

"Piston is a hotel detective who day-after-day reads Dick Tracy, and watches Humphrey Bogart, longing to be that guy ... but he just can't," said Matthew Bowen, who makes his local directorial debut with the show.

"It's two one-acts, which are actually a part of a series written by Jeff Goode," said Bowen. "They follow the life of the miserable Dick Piston, hotel detective."

Bowen found the plays in the GPLT library at Second Street Theatre. "I found them and I was hooked. They have a wicked pace to them," he said.

Prague-Nosis is the first one-act play and follows Piston as he is "hired by Czech film star Pleasure Hello to find an international jewel thief and man with no pants."

"The villain is Zing The Amazing, a hypnotist/typist. It sounds ridiculous, but it's awesome," said Bowen.

The second play, Cosmetic Perjury, focuses on two scientists who do cosmetic surgery on college students to create people that look like clones so they can get funding, he explained.

Bowen has cast Brandon Carpenter in the lead role of Dick Piston. Carpenter was seen earlier this year in Alice in Wonderland and had a lead role in The Outsiders in GPLT's 2002 production. "I wouldn't have given him the role if I hadn't seen The Outsiders, because this is a massive role. Every second line is his," he said of his leading man.

The cast includes a few more Alice in Wonderland alumni, including Evan Perret, Robyn Embury and Adrian Tanasichuk, as well as Alicia Shaw, who was in last year's Voices.

Bowen, who completed his high school education at the Victoria School of the Performing and Visual Arts in Edmonton, makes his GPLT directorial with Dick Piston.

"It ain't my first rodeo, but there are definitely a lot of challenges and pressure," he admitted.

Communicating with actors has been one of the most difficult challenges for Bowen.

"You've got what you want in your head and can see it, but they speak a different language than I do," he said. "Conveying my vision to an assortment of people has been the main challenge."

His vision includes a stage that will be split in two parts, with stage right dressed as Dick Piston's office, while stage left will serve as a variety of locations.

"It allows us to do some really cool transitions, where he just walks across the stage into the other playing space, be it the hotel lounge or a hotel room. It really allows the pace to keep moving instead of having a stop-start," said Bowen, adding, "We're going to have a bellhop changing set while the scene is going on."

A '50s film-noir style will be the theme in which Bowen brings the show to the stage. "We're going to try and do the lighting so it kind of looks black and white." He added the dialogue would be very much in the tone of old '50s detective films.

It was the dialogue, in fact, that really drew the young director to the plays. "It's a lot of word play," he said adding there is a bit of crude humour and some physical comedy in the show. "There are a lot of puns and a lot of plays on words. I love that stuff."

The fact the plays were one-acts was another attraction card for Bowen. "You have to grip the audience and tell an entire story in a short amount of time. You don't have that time to build and build and build to a climax. It's all kind of in your face," he said.

Bowen is pleased with the way his actors have grasped the characterization of their roles and is confident the show will be solid.

"I think I'll like directing more next time," he laughed. "It's been pretty stressful getting all the people together, getting all the props, costumes, all the schedules and all the meetings. I like directing, because I actually feel like I'm performing - I just get to perform all the roles."

The Messy Adventures of Dick Piston, Hotel Detective opens at Second Street Theatre May 8, and runs every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night until May 24. For tickets or more information, contact the GPLT box office, 538-1616.