Daily Herald Tribune
Thursday, May 15, 2008

Dick Piston an amusing romp through noir clichés

Ian Kucerak/Encore!
Thursday May 15, 2008

Robyn Embury as Misha Novakova and Brandon Carpenter as Dick Piston, struggle for a gun.
Photo: Diana Rinne

It can be a tough job being a hotel detective. You're standing in the shadows of many a famous private investigator, the job pays little, the clients are strange and sometimes you forget to lock the door.

But there's a job to do, because criminals keep up a steady business at the Lakeview Hotel, so Dick Piston, Hotel Detective is ready for the next beauty to stumble through his door, with trouble on her tail. The play put on by Grande Prairie Live Theatre is a fun, albeit naughty, jaunt through a comic book-inspired world.

The Messy Adventures of Dick Piston, Hotel Detective is written by Jeff Goode, directed by Matthew Bowen and produced by Adrian Tanasichuk. Bowen's direction was good, keeping the actors' energy up through the antics of each act in the two main standalone stories told in the play. Of the two acts, "Prague-Nosis!" was faster paced and comedic timing was better. In particular, Brandon Carpenter, as Dick Piston himself, and Robyn Embury, as jewel thief Misha Novakova, hit a high point before the intermission, as Piston attempted to clumsily interrogate Novakova - an international criminal who stole a necklace belonging to Czech royalty ... or did she?

Alicia Shaw played three different characters - Pleasure Hello in "Prague-Nosis!" and Bunny (and others) in "Cosmetic Perjury - which somehow wasn't terribly confusing. Given the 'comedy of errors' type story involving clones and Dick's confusion beginning with a set of breasts that simply don't add up, Shaw delivered her lines with zeal, appearing to enjoy the material.

The rest of the cast kept the Dick Piston ship sailing at a quick clip. Evan Perret, while annoyingly spouting, 'Amazing!' after the end of each sentence, played a strange cabaret magician Zing the Amazing very well. The same can be said for for Adrian Tanasichuk's Havel Presley - solid supporting roles all around.

Brandon Carpenter as Dick Piston stole the show. Coming from his last role as a turtle in Alice in Wonderland, Carpenter thrives wearing the fedora and leather jacket of the low-paid hotel detective. He had a lot of material to deliver where one misstep could cost him the joke - but this didn't happen. He kept his head, and was able to involve the audience for some of the shows biggest laughs.

Three caveats to note about the Dick Piston show involving cigarettes, the script and naughty words. Piston has a proclivity for herbal cigarettes and some audience members were coughing each time he lit a cigarette. As the script includes some (funny) double entendres and foul language, Dick Piston's show is definitely for the grown-up crowd.

Finally, there are points in the script, in both acts, where the audience was left as confused as Piston was - but like any story involving classic detectives like Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot, loose ends are wrapped up when Piston solves each case.

Anyone who enjoys the silliness of 1950's Dick Tracy comics, or the comic bumbling of an Inspector Clouseau, will enjoy the shenanigans of Dick Piston's adventures. The script has genuine laughs and is a fast-paced adventure from beginning to end, at a tight hour-and-a-half, including the intermission.

The Messy Adventures of Dick Piston Hotel Detective runs May 15, 16,17 and 22, 23, and 24. For more information check Grande Prairie Live Theatre's website at gplt.ab.ca or call the box office at 538-1616.