Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

The Big Sleep of Philip Marlowe

Gumshoe Productions
Review by Dean Yannias

Colin A. Borden, Erin Best, AJ Carian, and Rick Huff
Photo by Russell Maynor
What I remember from my college days owes at least as much to the campus film societies as to my professors. There were entire courses I took about which I recall absolutely nothing. On the other hand, I can never forget The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, Sunset Boulevard, Kiss Me Deadly, Vertigo and North by Northwest.

Kenneth Ansloan has obviously seen even more film noir movies than I have, and has written a dark comedy to pay them homage. He has taken the ones mentioned above and added Mildred Pierce, Murder, My Sweet, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (and more that I probably missed), thrown them all into a blender, and concocted a tremendously entertaining pastiche. You'll enjoy it more if you get the allusions to the old movies, but even if you don't, The Big Sleep of Philip Marlowe has a great noir-ish plot of its own and lots of laughs, holding interest all the way to the classic noir ending.

The show opens with a black-and-white short film (from the studio "Twentieth Century Faux") in which Raymond Chandler's famous private detective Philip Marlowe, played by Garrick Milo, is looking at his own dead body with an ice pick in the back. God gives him a chance to find his murderer by putting his soul into the body of meek accountant Louis Dater. Dater has to do Marlowe's bidding in order to find the killer, following a serpentine path through 1940s Los Angeles, loaded with double crosses and a lot of people getting offed along the way. The right half of Dater's body is Marlowe, the left is Louis, and it takes a special actor to pull this off for the duration of the show. Colin A. Borden is such a one, the best actor for physical comedy that I have seen in Albuquerque, and he gives a tour de force performance that should not be missed.

Ken Ansloan was the creative genius (and I don't think "genius" is hyperbole here) behind The Dolls, a drag troupe that was the pride of Albuquerque before they disbanded last year. Ken and some of the company members are back in play this year as Gumshoe Productions, providing the world premiere production of The Big Sleep of Philip Marlowe. As before, Ken does almost everything: He writes an original script, produces, directs, finds the fantastic costumes (all in black, white, and gray for this show), and stars as Velma, Lucy, Norma, and Maggie. Yes, it's still got drag, but it's not a typical drag show. It's much more cleverly written than most and has only one lip-sync number.

The femmes fatales, and there are plenty of them, are played by Ken and AJ Carian in drag. The male roles are filled by Rick Huff and Erin Best (but they both play women, too). There are uncountable costume changes, most of them very quick, since the cast of five plays 16 characters (or 17, if you count Colin's split personality). Everyone on stage does a fine job, their timing is spot-on, and they seem to be having a ball. So did I.

There's not much of a set, but the lighting design by Benjamin Kesselring, sound editing by Jon Hull, videos by Garrick Milo and Paul Anglada, and stage managing by Kathy Cole are all excellent. I'm probably biased because I've seen most of the movies that Ken references in this script, but I think this is the best thing that he has ever written. I'm wondering what his fertile imagination will come up with next.

Gumshoe Productions' The Big Sleep of Philip Marlowe, through July 22, 2018, at the North 4th Art Center. 4904 4th Street NW, Albuquerque NM. Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00, Sundays at 2:00. Tickets are $20 at or $25 at the door. For more information, visit