Terry Johnson’s Hitchcock Blonde attempts to explore the mythos of Alfred Hitchcock’s voyeuristic fascination with his blonde leading ladies, under the auspices of a mystery play that strives to equal the old master’s gift for the opaque. The Jungle Theater is currently staging the play with fantastic noir-inspired lighting by Barry Browning and a thrilling dramatic score arranged by Sean Healey, under the talented oversight of director Joel Sass. However, the Jungle’s creative team can’t salvage this script: while running the length of nearly two Hitchcock films, the play fails to muster the gravitas of even one.
|hitchcock blonde, a play written by terry johnson and directed by joel sass. presented through march 8 at the jungle theater, 2951 lyndale ave. s., minneapolis. For tickets ($28-$36) and information, see jungletheater.com.|
Blonde contains two simultaneous narratives. In one, a “Hitchcock Blonde” (Mikki Daniels) attempts to blackmail Hitchcock (Tom Sherohman) into helping cover up the murder of her husband, a silent Eric Knutson. The parallel storyline involves a present-day film professor, Alex (J.C. Cutler), who uses a “lost” Hitchock film as bait to whisk one of his students (Heidi Bakke’s Nicola) away to a Greek isle in order to seduce her. Where these narratives connect is in the lost film itself, which could be an early example of Hitchock’s film technique or simply an erotic film created for the man’s own pleasure…or just a big MacGuffin. As Alex and Nicola restore the lost film piece by piece, each frame is projected onstage, interspersed with scenes depicting making of said film. While the puzzle pieces are supposed to come together neatly as the drama increases, instead the plot moves with agonizingly slowness as we’re subjected to endless exposition about the relationship between Alex and Nicola.
The actors make do admirably with the clunky script. Sherohman’s Hitchcock is scarily accurate and more than a little creepy. J.C. Bates shines as Alex, adding nuance to the cliché of the middle-aged manipulator. Heidi Bakke capably portrays Nicola, though she occasionally sounds as if she learned her cockney accent from Dick Van Dyke. Where she redeems herself is in her precise comedic timing, which brings quite a number of laughs. Mikki Daniels’s Blonde is also a dynamic character, though she too struggles to master her accent—in this case one of an uneducated “broad” from the 20s. Her masterly portrayal of a woman unearthing a startling new revelation about the nature of her own sexuality is one of the production’s high points.
While Blonde contains a touch of mystery, it simply isn’t enough to carry the play—especially for over three hours. If one is to emulate the king of the enigma, more is required than conventional plot twists such as the contrivance about what may or may not be Alex’s cancer. The lost film itself is a bit more beguiling, but its true nature becomes obvious long before the “reveal.” While this is an admirable effort by Sass, the technical staff, and the actors involved, the real mystery of the show is why Johnson’s script wasn’t pared down to something a bit more efficient.
Jon Behm (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Minneapolis-based photographer and writer. While his specialty is music, Jon has a wide variety of interests that tend to take him all over the Twin Cities on a daily basis.