Re-imagining classic fairy tale characters for adult audiences isn’t exactly innovative anymore, but it can still be fun. Brooks Reeves’ The City That Cried Wolf at 59E59 Theaters, is a noir detective story that shows potential, even if the end result is somewhat uneven.
The story unfolds in Rhyme Town, and follows Private Detective Jack B. Nimble (Adam La Faci), a former cop, who is hired by councilmember Humpty Dumpty (Loren Vandegrift) to investigate his wife Little Bo Peep (Chloe Demrovsky), whom he suspects is having an affair. When Dumpty is found sunny side up on the pavement, Bo becomes the prime suspect.
Reeves litters his script with references to numerous nursery rhymes, and includes characters such as Mother Goose (Michelle Concha), King Cole (Mat Bussler), Goldilocks (Jyll Marie Mihlek), and Jack’s former partner Jill (Rebecca Jones). The playwright is prone to bad puns — for example, Jack tells his client, “Mr. Dumpty, these things are never over easy.” But too often, the jokes fall flat.
La Faci has the stoic mannerisms, deep voice, and rugged good looks of a classic noir detective, while Demrovsky makes for a sultry femme fatale. Unfortunately, the chemistry between the two is only at a low boil instead of a sizzle. Concha has got a great sense of presence as Mother Goose, and proves to be quite a good dancer in a sequence set at the Rhyme Town Ball (choreography is by Alberto Peart).
The rest of the cast play multiple parts with varying degrees of skill. The brevity of a character’s appearance usually means that the actor goes for a broad, caricatured portrayal. Jones makes a strong impression as Jill, while Bussler flails as a dog comedian.
Co-directors Dan Barnes and Leta Tremblay could stand to liven up the pace, as it drags too much for a successful comedy. Demrovsky’s done a nice job on the costumes, particularly her own Bo Peep outfits. Joshua Higgason’s low-budget scenic design is functional, but not particularly imaginative.
Reeves includes a few surprising twists in his murder mystery, even if the culprit is rather obvious long before it’s officially revealed. There are also a few plot holes that are never quite filled. For instance, once we find out a bit more about Dumpty, it’s unclear why he hired Jack in the first place. Still, there’s more to this whodunit than initially meets the eye. As the characters discuss the problem of wolves blowing down buildings, and the passage of an “anti-predator act,” the meaning behind this contemporary allegory becomes extremely relevant.