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Dave Lepori

The Big Sleeveless: Livia Genise's Blonde drops in on Daraj Maxfield's Private Eye in "Gunmetal Blues."

'Gunmetal Blues' parodies 'noir' genre in musical comedy

By Anne Gelhaus

AS PRODUCED by the San Jose Stage Company, the musical comedy Gunmetal Blues is a parody that manages to capture the mood of the private-eye genre and poke fun at it at the same time. The credit for this achievement is due in equal parts to the cast, the musicians and the production staff, the sum of whose parts has been well balanced by director Rick Singleton.

Much of the action takes place at the Red Eye Lounge, a scrungy piano bar in an airport hotel. Judging from the look of the bar itself, set designer Rob Hamilton has at least a passing familiarity with the bars at Eulipia and the Agenda, both located near The Stage in downtown San Jose, but the environment Hamilton has created just outside the Red Eye's windows makes it clear that the lounge is not in a part of town that would attract a high-caliber clientele.

When combined with Michael Walsh's stellar lighting designs, Hamilton's single set becomes the office of the Private Eye (Daraj Maxfield), as well as the office of the man whose murder he's investigating. Walsh's lighting also brilliantly accents both the show's more seriously noir moments and its seriously funny scenes.

Roy Abramsohn is responsible for many of the latter. Not only is he extremely able in his main role as the Piano Player, but he executes a variety of character roles with great comic timing, taking lines that could easily be thrown away and instead making sure they get a laugh. Abramsohn doesn't have much of a singing voice, but it's perfect for the lounge lizard that the Piano Player is supposed to be.

Abramson is ably backed during the show's musical numbers by percussionist Montgomery Hatch and saxophonist Lisa Marie Baratta. The combo actually gets to make its fair share of musical jokes.

When the Private Eye sings the title song, his blues are induced by lost love and too much bourbon, and he makes it painfully clear that the high notes from Baratta's sax aren't doing his hangover any good.

As the Blonde, Livia Genise has the difficult task of inserting serious drama into the show, which she does seamlessly no matter which one of four blonde characters she's playing at the moment. Genise also has the most serious musical numbers to tackle, and her rendition of "The Blonde Song" is a show-stopper.

Musical director Craig Bohmler also composed the score for Gunmetal Blues, and while none of the music is groundbreaking, it does evoke the spirit of familiar songs from the '40s, when the show is set. You almost expect someone to walk into the Red Eye and request "As Time Goes By."

Gunmetal Blues plays Wednesday-Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm through June 30 at The Stage, 490 S. First St., San Jose. Tickets are $15-$25. (408/283-7142)

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From the June 13-19, 1996 issue of Metro

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