SCENES FROM A JAZZ BAR by Talking Camel, directed by Charles Roy, with Luc de Bruin, Erica Dozert, Jeremy Hutton, David Galpern, Byron Rouse, JoAnn Mailioux, Gina Marshall, Hope McNamara and Jeffrey O'Brien. Poor Alex Cabaret (296 Brunswick). Runs to June 29, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, late shows Friday-Saturday 10:30 pm (except June 15 and 29). $10-$15. 416-678-6075. Rating: NN Rating: NN
The enterprising people of talking Camel Productions have taken their scissors to a dozen plays from the 30s and come up with Scenes From A Jazz Bar, a blend of club music and theatrics that tantalizes more often than it comes to life.The source material -- the best-known plays are Idiot's Delight, The Petrified Forest and Stage Door, all better remembered in their screen versions -- provide most of the dialogue, involving the regulars and staff at a busy nightclub.
Imagine mobsters, molls, a society guy infatuated with a club singer, and you get the picture. The trouble with the resulting pastiche is that the stapling together of lines loses the tone that made the originals bubbly and entertaining. And if you're gonna create a 30s atmosphere, stay with it -- why have cellphones and references to the 1990s?
The jazz quartet plays well, in solo numbers and underscoring a lot of the dramatic scenes, and trumpeter Jeremy Hutton also figures importantly in the action. He and Gina Marshall as a faux Russian with a checkered past -- she's also a swell singer -- are among the acting standouts, along with Jeffrey O'Brien as a romantic waiter and Erica Dozert as the object of his affections.
Director Charles Roy makes effective use of the new Poor Alex Cabaret space, moving the overlapping action around the nightclub, though some uneven characterizations and the patched-together script tend to loosen the production's tension.