A single light illuminates the face of a well-dressed man onstage. He launches into a cryptic monologue describing a dream he had about his little brother. “You disappeared, like you never was,” he tells his unseen sibling. The light fades out and the tenor sax eases in, and we are transported into a dark, dramatic world of sex and murder.
In “The Underneath,” writer Susan Soon He Stanton DRA ’10 successfully draws from the film noir style of the 1940s to create a mysterious crime drama. She crafts a dreamlike world of intrigue, complete with the essential convoluted plot, erotic uneasiness, absurd story twists and smooth jazz.
“The Underneath” is a mysterious tale about a man who returns home after receiving a note from the brother he abandoned many years before. Upon his arrival, he meets a knockout femme fatale, played by Teresa Lim DRA’09, who informs him that his brother is missing. After an encounter with the local crime lord, played by Justin Meadows, who accuses him of murder, the man is drawn into a complicated web of lies. No one can be trusted. No one is innocent.
The elements of the play are unbearably cheesy, and deliberately so: melodramatic declarations and clichés overwhelm the dialogue, tired back-and-forths are used to create easy laughs, and sexual tension between characters is exaggerated to the point of parody. The play is not attempting to be profound and certainly isn’t trying to win any Tony Awards. What it strives to do is to create an easily enjoyable and exciting show. It far exceeds its goal.
“I like to come here to try to find out who is going to be the next big star,” I overhear the older gentleman behind me say after the performance. In his Cabaret debut, Max Gordon Moore DRA ’11 certainly acts like a star, carrying the show as the city dwelling Col. Moore nails the characteristic film noir asides with his nonchalant Chicagoan accents, and impresses with his romantic dips as he literally sweeps his love interest off her feet. In a time when it takes a lot to shock, Moore is able recreate the dangerous sensationalism of the film noir era.
Among many shows trying too hard with clever jokes or forcing the audience to contemplate the existential crisis of humanity, “The Underneath” is refreshing. It’s nice to see a play that doesn’t require too much reflection.
The Yale Cabaret is located at 217 Park St. “The Underneath” will run today and Saturday at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.