The Thin Man
The many redirects and red herrings of the murder case that fuels Hammett’s final novel, which introduced Nick and Nora Charles, aren’t worth going into. Not because they’d give anything away; they really just aren’t worth going into. Hammett treats his plot as afterthought to ambience; the mystery is less than satisfying, but it’s the urbane banter between gin-soaked detective Nick Charles and his vicarious-thrill-seeking wife that is the raison d’être of Hammett’s comic sparkler.
On press night, at least, Cury’s actors’ handle on that snappy text was woefully shaky. Bullion looks and sounds enough like a credible Nick, as Christina Gorman does a passable Nora. But both, like much of their supporting cast, stumble painfully over dialogue that’s meant to be razor-sharp.
Speaking of opening-night unpreparedness: Thanks to that night’s Cubs game clogging the Red Line, I was a few minutes late and spent the first act with an obstructed view of the stage. But after getting a better perspective on Act II, I’m confident I didn’t miss much in Act I. Nick’s past-tense narration dominates, while other characters simply duck in and out. There’s little show, lots of tell. The experience crystallized something common to all McCabe’s adaptations I’ve seen. Each has used a narrator, gone to inefficient lengths to be faithful to their sources and incorporated little visual flair. City Lit’s story-theater treatments aren’t adaptations so much as audiobooks: They’d be just as gratifying as radio plays. That the cast could hang on to its scripts wouldn’t hurt either.