We begin as so many other stories have — on a rainy night, peering through the evening’s darkness and into the office of someone who can’t help but be distantly in-thought. As this audio-only chronicle begins, in our mind’s eye we can’t help but imagine the mystique of a black and white film — think Humphrey Bogart.
But no, this story belongs to someone else entirely, Detective Stainless Steel, as she examines what must be a rather dreary Chicago evening from her window, a desk riddled with bullet holes beside her. In the wake of losing her fellow private eye — the other half of the Steel and Blank detective agency — she ponders what her next move might be.
Steel is soon joined by newcomer, detective-in-training Watley Holm — a nervous but curious mind looking for adventure and offering the relief of comedy as the story grows more corrupt and ever so enthralling with each passing chapter. Soon after, Steel’s ex-wife makes an entrance to ask for a favor for her new lover, which kicks off the sleuths' escapade to undo a crime ring and decipher their newfound partnership. What follows are 70-some minutes of crime, passion, and enough plot twists to make you dizzy, but in the most hilarious and thoughtful ways.
A Theater In The Dark Knows How to Bridge Reality and Fiction
Set in 1929, audiences can expect total immersion through the use of SFX, including the patter of rain, horses neighing on the street, relentlessly squeaky doors, authentic foot steps, and more. And with the mention of local landmarks like the “L” train, the city is recognizable despite the near-90 year distance between then and now.
Additionally, and further to A Theater in the Dark’s credit, their utter dedication to the themes and modes of storytelling that are present in this production very much pay off, in this writer’s opinion. One such commitment is that satirical names are to be used for some characters — such as Zipp Lighter or Mr. Action. Another is that Steel always has some witty crack to make, whether she is talking with an acquaintance or staring trouble right in the face, such as, “Smells like plot soup and it's starting to thicken.” There is also the nod to the almost-breaking of the fourth wall, when both Steel and Watley monologue their way in and out of every situation.
Though many theater lovers may be new to audio-only performances, this writer thinks that what A Theater in the Dark lacks in physical space, they more than make up for with an authentic, fully fleshed out theatrical experience. This production is particularly well-suited for viewers who enjoy a twist on a classic genre or more experimental works — though, surely, anyone who listens in will not be disappointed.
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Amy Gorelow (Detective Stainless Steel)
Julian ‘Joolz’ Stroop (Detective-in-Training Watley Holm)
Laura Michelle Erle (Vesper Kind & others)
Christopher Meister (Vincent Valconi & others)
Corey Bradberry (Rod Wrong)
Greg Garrison (Wilhelm Wrong & Narrator)
Greg Garrison (Creator)
Corey Bradberry (Director)
Paul Sottnik (Original Music Composed/Performed)
Greg Garrison and Corey Bradberry (Soundscape Design)
Corey Bradberry (Sound Engineer & Producer)
Bethany Daigle (“Fish with Mustache” Design Creator)
Online via Soundcloud
About the Author: Margaret Smith ( Photo by Mike Rundle )
Margaret Smith is a Chicago-based, multi-genre writer and editor. They are a graduate of Columbia College Chicago, a lover of all-things theater, and a crossword puzzle enthusiast. More of their work can be found on the Better Magazine website.