Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: New Jersey

Affectionate Take on Film Noir at NJ Rep

Also see Bob's review of Shakespeare in Vegas

Michael McCoy, Catherine LeFrere, Darrell Glasgow and Thomas Grube
Stan Werse's Noir is an affectionate, inherently satiric, pleasingly respectful take on the "grade B" seventy-five minute or so long film noir policiers turned out quickly on tiny budgets by Hollywood in the 1940s and '50s as "programmers" to play as second features to "A" movies on double feature bills, which were the staple for moviegoers. A training ground for young directors and dependent on imaginative devices, any number of these lean, muscular films play better today than the "A" features which they supported. Major studios and directors brought the "noir" genre to higher budget "A" films, but New Jersey Rep's Noir is most reminiscent of the low budget programmers at which R.K.O. Radio Pictures excelled.

(For those who may be interested—in New York City, "A" features played first played exclusive engagements at a Manhattan theatre as single features. Thereafter, they played throughout the city as double features with "B" pictures which opened (with them) in Downtown Brooklyn exclusive engagements before being shown city-wide.)

Noir is set in a New York City Police precinct station house and its environs in 1950. Cynical and dissatisfied Detective McQue (Michael McCoy), neither as dumb as others see him nor as smart as he sees himself, narrates the story of a case which was pivotal to his career. It involves Detective Clay Holden (Darrell Glasgow) and his first case after arriving at the precinct. Holden is a smart, decorated cop, but a suspect went out a window at his hands, and McQue thinks that Holden may not be all that he is cracked up to be. Involved in the action up to his eyeballs is Precinct Captain Norbert Grimes. McQue's former partner and bête noir, Grimes is a hardnosed guy who employs all the unsavory devices that give cops a bad reputation.

Finally, there's femme fatale Helen Lydecker. Sam Werse's description of her in his script directions reads a bit like Dashiell Hammett. I would recommend that he place them in the mouth of McQue. She and Holden have just met at an art museum. The stage directions read: "She moves and speaks fluidly, languorously, like a woman made out of smoke. A little older than Holden, perhaps in her early 30s, she is beautiful. So beautiful, it makes your eyes hurt."

The story is a complex and convoluted variation on a oft told tale. All that you need know is that it is involving and entertaining, and plays fair by the rules of the genre.

While the characterizations are not deep or complex, it is important that they be true to the genre and performed with conviction. Michael McCoy captures the unhappy McQue right down to his substandard regional New York Irish accent and resonant voice. Thomas Grube brings just the right touch of evil to his domineering precinct captain. Darrell Glasgow inhabits Clay Holden with a cold wariness which preserves the mystery about the nature of Holden. Catherine LeFrere is too bland to be convincing as a deadly, irresistible weaver of webs.

The dark labyrinth-like set appears to be constructed almost entirely of black bricks and is lit in various levels of dim. This design decision oppresses the viewer. While noir films can be oppressively dark, daytime out of doors scenes, police stations, offices, restaurants and nightclubs are usually filmed with natural levels of light. Here, the dark set and lighting, narrow center corridor, and rear arch make it appear that the entire play is transpiring in a Kafkaesque dungeon.

Director Marc Geller has provided Noir with excellent pacing and performances. He provides major pleasure at the beginning with his decision to open the play with a film credit sequence in which, against a background of bellowing cigarette smoke, there are full credits for this production in the style of the credits of the original noir films which are the inspiration for this clever and entertaining Noir.

Noir continues performances (Evenings: Thursday, Friday and Saturday 8 pm/ Matinees: Saturday 3 pm; Sunday 2 pm) through May 5, 2013, at the New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch, New Jersey 07740; box office: 732-229-3166; online:

Noir by Stan Werse; directed by Marc Geller

Clay Holden………..Darrell Glasgow
McQue………………..Michael McCoy
Norbert Grimes……..Thomas Grube
Helen Lydecker…Catherine LeFrere

Be sure to Check the current schedule for theatre in New Jersey

Photo: SuzAnne Barabas

- Bob Rendell