Dinner and a show will leave you laughing

When spoof meets suspense

Posted: Thursday, February 15, 2007


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  Photo by Jenny Neyman

Joe Rizzo and Carla Jenness rehearse scenes from "The Maltese Salmon," a film noir spoof Triumvirate Theatere is performing Friday and Saturday at The Crossing restaurant in Soldotna.

Photo by Jenny Neyman

Film noir.

The term carries images of shadowy lighting, twisting plots and characters meeting on rainy streets for conversations rife with subtext. The term speaks of darkness as the meaning of the word “noir,” in fact, translates to “black.”

In many ways, the distinctive stylistic traits of film noir movies — think “Double Indemnity” and “The Naked City” — are crying for a spoof.

On Friday and Saturday, Triumvirate Theatre will take the bait and tackle the job of satirizing one of the greatest noir films ever made: “The Maltese Falcon.”

Carla Jenness has stepped up to the task by offering the Kenai version of the story, “The Maltese Salmon,” as part of the company’s second annual dinner theater and art auction.

“The Maltese Salmon” will center around the exploits of Sam Spade, based on the character of the same name from “The Maltese Falcon.” Spade will navigate the dark corners in the minds of a host of shady characters as they all search for the most valuable artifact on the Kenai Peninsula — the Maltese Salmon.

The benefit will take place at The Crossing restaurant in Soldotna. This could, one might think, present a challenge. The tradition of noir is all about darkness, while The Crossing is a light-filled room overlooking the scenic Kenai River. According to Jenness, however, the location is perfect.

“All these interesting and wacky, fun characters are all looking for one thing, and that’s the Maltese Salmon. And so, we wonder who’s double-crossing who, and who these alliances are. It’s all about making fun of Soldotna ... all the local jokes are there — the bridge and the governor. And the fact that it’s at The Crossing, it’s right there. It’s perfect. We’ll be gazing out onto the bridge construction, as it happens.”

The jokes are all in good fun, and the hope is that audience members will be able to laugh with the actors as the 40-minute play unfolds. Guests will be treated to a prime rib dinner before the show and the company expects they’ll be ready to enjoy themselves.

Joe Rizzo plays Sam Spade. He also directs the production. Rizzo said he appreciates the opportunity to make light of what are usually subjects of great importance to a small town.

“At times, these are all focal issues in the community, but at times we all like to be able to laugh at it a little bit. The nice thing about living in a small town like that is that in spite of the challenges, political and nonpolitical in the community, we’re all in it together. It’s a matter of working together and this type of activity is great for bringing people together to remind us of what we truly all care about, which is, you know, having a good place for kids to grow up.”

The audience will be set up in a thrust arrangement to the stage. This means they will be on three sides of the action and almost be a part of the show. Chris Jenness will play the role of “Gutman” in the production. His character is a kingpin sort of a guy, and he enjoys the proximity of the audience in such situations.

“That is kind of a fun thing about dinner theater, is being so close to the audience you can, you sort of have the freedom to interact with them if you want to,” he said.

Rizzo described the different setting as a way to take some of the formality out of the arrangement of a traditionally oriented play. In most cases, the audience is trained to watch a show without much direct interaction with the performers.

“Unlike a formal play, where you say, ‘We’re going to pretend this is a drama that’s playing itself out and we as the audience are kind of looking in on this.’ This kind of thing is designed where everything is kind of tongue in cheek. You’re in a restaurant,” he said.


Photo by Jenny Neyman

Though the evening’s entertainment is in fun, the purpose of the event is more serious for Triumvirate. The dinner theater and art auction is the company’s largest fundraising event for the season and helps support the operating funds that keep the company in its home space at the Peninsula Center Mall.

The company operates a number of performing arts educational programs with community schools, summer camps and a literacy push attached to the bookstore the company operates.

Some of the local artists who have donated work for the art auction after the benefit performance have been able to show work at the theater and bookstore. The event also will help the company fulfill part of its mission as a clearinghouse for other charitable events.

Triumvirate organizers are proud of its ability to offer space and support when a family is in need because of the cost of care for a terminally ill child, a home is lost to fire or other disasters.

To purchase tickets for the event, call The Crossing at 262-1906. Tickets are $45 per person and include dinner; seating is limited. Dinner is at 6 p.m. with the show at 7.

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